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Full text of "Omni Magazine (January 1992)"



-JANUARY 1992 





I •' ' 'A I I I I L ,,/- ^-' 














First Word 

By Margaret Wertheim 

Physics and 

the Theory of Everything 



By Keith Ferrell 

Space and the presidency 



Readers' writes 


| Space 

" By James Oberg 

The Soviets sell out 



By Keith Harary 

Tinkering with evolution 



By Sandy Fritz 

Whirlybirds, real birds 



By Jeffrey Zygmont 

Smart highways 



By Ben Barber 

Third World recycling 



By Scot Morris 

The year's best games 

i Political Science 
I By Tom Dworetzky 
".iling trauma facilities 


This month's coverjs a departure for Omni, high- 
lighting our list of important things to 
know. (Additional art and photo credits, page 97) 



Environmental report card 


51 Things You Must 

Know About 

Science, Technology, 


Your Future 

By the Editors of Omni 


(well, almost) you always 

wanted to know 

about science but were 

afraid to ask 



Encounter with the 


By Ursula K. Le Guin 


Mapping the Mindfields 

By Bob Berger 


OMNI Treasure Hunt 



Fiction: Carl's Lawn and 


By Terry B'sson 



By Arthur C. Clarke 


World of Electronic 




By Thomas Bass 

Chaos explained 

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The search for a mathematical description of everything 

By Margaret Wertheim 

Wertheim, film- 
maker and 
science journal- 
ist, is writing 
Dream, a book 
about the 
attempt by physi- 
cists to describe 
the universe in 
the language of 

■ f% | e are living in a unique 
I I moment of history, tor 
%J %J many physicists be- 
lieve they are on the verge of find- 
ing a complete mathematical de- 
scription of the Universe— a The- 
ory of Everything. Encompassed 
in its graceful equations suppos- 
edly will be our past, our present, 
and our future. 

The question that needs to be 
asked is why are we doing it? We 
as individuals and our society as 
a whole — why are we looking 
for a mathematical description of 
the Universe? The usual answer 
is that physicists are searching 
for truth, and so the Theory of 
Everything will be the Ultimate 
Truth. However, this presuppos-- 
es that mathematics is sufficient 
to describe the totality of exis- 
tence. But how do we know it is? 
The fact is we don't. The belief 
that it is remains just that— a be- 
lief. The founders of modern phys- 
ics—Kepler, Galileo, Des- 
cartes, and Newton— 
iderstood this, 
but today a mathe- 
matical perspec- 
tive on reality is 
too often taken to 
be self-evident. 

While a desire 

to find truth is a 

'motivating factor for 

physicists, it is not the 

only one. They are al- 

driven by a 

desire to find an aesthetically 
pleasing and spiritually satisfying 
description of the Universe— it's 
just that they use the language of 
numbers not letters. The great 
quantum physicist Paul Dirac, 
whose equations predicted the 
the existence of antimatter, once 
said, "it is more important to have 
beauty in one's equations than to 
have them fit experiment." From 
the beginning of the modern age 
of cosmology in the sixteenth cen- 
tury, the quest for a mathematical 
description of the Universe has 
been predominantly a spiritual 
one. Its underlying philosophy is 
that truth is beauty and beauty is 
truth, and both can be expressed 
as mathematical formulas. 

For this reason, physics is one " 
of the great aesthetic pursuits of 
our time. Like Giotto's frescoes, 
Michelangelo's sculptures, and 
Bach's fugues, the Theory of Ev- 
erything is a high point of West- 
ern culture. Some of the best 
mathematicians and physicists to- 
day are engaged in constructing 
it, and all sorts of new mathemat- 
ics are being developed for the 
purpose. If they succeed then 
their theory will be a concrete 
expression of the ancient Pythag- 
orean belief that the Universe is 
a vast harmonic system. 

The models physicists are now 
developing in working toward 
their Theory of Everything do por- 
tray a Universe full of patterns 
and symmetries — a harmonic Uni- 
verse that is mathematically beau- 
tiful. It is this theoretical beauty 
more than any hard evidence 
that convinces them they are on 
the right track. And it's not hard 
to see why. 

Today, according to physics, 
the Universe is a multidimension- 
al force field, and everything that 
exists is a concentrated vibration 
in this field. All things come from 
the field, and to it they return. It 
is everything that is, and yet it is 

empty, for the Universe contains 
nothing but itself. We are all part 
of it, not separate entities but in- 
terconnected vibrations participat- 
ing in the whole. Protons, petu- 
nias, and people, galaxies and ga- 
zelles—we're all harmonies in the 
universal song. 

Some physicists believe that 
as well as describing how the Uni- 
verse came to be the way it is, 
the Theory of Everything will also 
explain why it did. If we interpret 
it not just'as a description but al- 
so as an explanation of why our 
Universe came to exist, then we 
will find ourselves in the metaphys- 
ical domain. And so we must ask, 
will a mathematical Theory of Ev- 
erything be a spiritually satisfying 
account of existence? This is not 
something that scientists alone 
can decide. Since Western cul- 
ture has largely abandoned myth- 
ological and religious accounts of 
existence, the mathematical ones 
have come to play a key role in the 
psyche of our society. Space, 
time, and matter, change and pos- 
sibility are all now defined in math- 
ematical terms. Our horizons, limi- 
tations, and dreams are being 
shaped by physicists' equations. 
We need to assess this mathemat- 
ical account not just as scientific 
theory but also ; as a metaphysi- 
cal framework for our lives. 

The Theory of Everything is an 
extraordinary construct whose 
scope and power challenge us to 
confront it head-on. The view 
from its summit will be breath- 
takingly beautiful. The challenge 
facing us will be to survey what 
we see and assess what it 
means to us — emotionally, spiri- 
tually, scientifically. In doing so, 
we will find ourselves confronted 
with a choice of whether we 
want to stop there, atop the 
peak of Mount Everything, or if 
we wish to press on — and if so, 
where? That challenge is not just 
for scientists; it is for us all. DO 



Are there visionary candidates? Are there politicians who know what 

space exploration means to the nation and the world? 

J^^ s we enter Election Year 
M^k 1992, it would be nice 
# m if our officials — those 
in office and those seeking to 
be — gave some serious thought 
to the future of our space pro- 
gram. Nice, but unlikely, 

We're in the heart of a reces- 
sion that may in actuality be a de- 
pression. Certainly we are beset 
by domestic challenges that 
more dreary every week. 


A call to act 
on renewing our 
space program 
just might be an 
effective elec- 
tion year issue. 

Health- V-W(?are, housing, 
education, unemployment, AIDS, 
and more — can we afford to con- 
tinue dreaming about a space- 
based future? 

Can we afford not to? Surren- 
dering one of our noblest 
dreams may be the costliest de- 
feat we ever suffer. Keeping that 
dream alive, on the other hand, 
is unlikely to bankrupt the nation 
or take money away from social 
programs. Even an ambitious 
space program need cost only a 
fraction of what we're spending 
on social programs. 

What costs more is aimless- 
ness, a lack of direction and pur- 
pose. We've spun our space pro- 
gram wheels, as it were, for 
more than a decade, letting bu- 
reaucrats sap the scientific and 
engineering heart of the undertak- 

ing. It's tough to create technol- 
ogy to bureaucratic design, al- 
though we've certainly tried in 
this country. Now it's past time to 
try something different: a space 
program based on engineering re- 
alities, commercial needs, scien- 
tific goals, broad vision. Past 
time, but not yet too late 

How about a modest, four- 
legged proposal for getting our 
space program in motion again, 
and maintaining 
its momentum 
once it begins 
to move? Funda- 
mental to the pro- 
posals is the 
idea of steady 
state funding. En- 
gineering pro- 
jects work best 
and most eco- 
nomically when 
they are under- 
taken with funds 
in hand, rather 
than having to 
take hat in hand 
every year to 
beg for continui- 
ty from Congress. 

The first leg is a revamping of 
our launch systems. Already un- 
der way, the revamping needs to 
be funded at realistic and con- 
stant levels, and at levels high 
enough to provide for unmanned 
heavy-lift vehicles for lobbing 
large payloads into orbit as well 
as smaller and more economical 
vehicles for bearing humans to 
space and back. 

Second among the priorities is 
a serious resumption, fully fund- 
ed, of deep-space robotic mis- 
.sions to the planets and bodies 
of our solar system. No other un- 
dertaking — not even humans in 
space — costs so little and does 
as much to fuel dreams as the 
sight of distant worlds, the sense 
of astronomical vistas, the flow of 
information from elsewhere in our 

system. This is affordable vision 
at its best. 

Third, is some sensible, firm, 
comfortably funded plans for the 
future of humans beyond our grav- 
ity well. Are we or are we not build- 
ing a space station, and what is 
its primary purpose? Is our next 
long-term goal a return to the 
moon or a trip to Mars? Will we 
be making these journeys on our 
own or in international partner- 
ship? These questions must be an- 
swered; firmly and with some 
sense of finality, in the next 24 
months so that we can get going. 
And once we're going, funding 
must remain constant: Let's treat 
these as engineering and scien- 
tific challenges, not political foot- 
balls constantly in motion from 
one committee to the next. 

Fourth is a schedule of substan- 
tial tax incentives for private invest- 
ment in the commercial and indus- 
trial development of orbital 
space. Serious tax cuts for 
space investment will bring seri- 
ous investors into the space busi- 
ness. And that will mean jobs, 
which the country sorely needs. 
All of this implies a willingness 
on the .part of the people to take 
a long-range view. I think the peo- 
ple are more than ready; it's the 
politicians who are thinking in the 
short term on" this issue. Do we 
have politicians who dream of 
leadership or only of leading in 
the polls? Could we find a candi- 
date who can call on our spirit of 
adventure, who's willing to take a 
few risks in exchange for the pos- 
sibility of large rewards for the na- 
tion and the world? 

Difficult times demand dream- 
ers; vital challenges call for vision- 
aries. I've listed no specific dol- 
lar figures here: That's a job for 
the politicians. Are there candi- 
dates out there who are ready to 
help the world go out friere?We'd 
love to hear from them. 

—Keith FerrellDO 




Omni's evolution issue stirs the passions 

of all persuasions 

Creation vs. Evolution 
I enjoyed Keith Ferrell's article "The 
Chasm of Creaiionism" [Forum, Octo- 
ber 1991], and I agree with him 100 per- 
cent. What I would like to see is religion 
change and keep up with the science 
of the day instead of trying to take us 
back to the Dark Ages. 

Patricia Kameika 
Bay Shore, NY 

As one who is trained in both science 

and theology, I was intrigued by Keith 
Ferrell's article "The Chasm of Creation- 
ism." Though I am not a proponent of 
creationism, and I agree with Ferrell's 
conclusion regarding opposition to the 
teaching of creationism in the public 
schools, I found his argument to be sub- 
ject to the same dogmatic thinking that 
he labels as unscientific. While it may 
be true that evolutionary theory has 
none of the normal trappings that are 
usually associated with religion, the the- 
ory itself carries with it some definite theo- 
logical assumptions. To suggest that 
"faith is personal, science universal" 
and that "faith is subjective, science 
objective" is not only debatable in and 
of itself, but it betrays a lack of theo- 
logical acumen. 

The Rev. Steven E. King 
LaSalle, MN 

Blood Typ-o 

Check Continuum, October 1991, 
page 28. There are approximately five 
to six quarts of blood in the average hu- 
man body. This comes to 5 percent (1/ 
20) to 7 percent (7/100) of body 
weight, not one sixth. At your estimate, 
the body of a woman weighing 135 
pounds would contain 22.5 quarts or 
5.5 gallons of blood instead of approx- 
imately 5.5 quarts or about 1 Va gallons. 
Elizabeth Hauptli 
Dubuque, IA 


I read with interest, and agreement, 

Tom Dworetzky's column [Political Sci- 
ence, September 1991], One para- 
graph, however, needs clarification. SE- 
MATECH's mission is not limited to man- 

ufacturing technologies for .35-micro.n 
random access memory chips. The tech- 
nologies we are developing can be ap- 
plied to a wide range of end products. 
SEMATECH has suffered from the pub- 
lic perception that we were formed to 
restore America's presence in the 
DRAM marketplace. Rather, we were 
formed to provide the U.S. industry the 
domestic capability for world leadership 
in semiconductor manufacturing. 

Miller Bonner 
Austin, TX 

Dinosaur Debris 

It seems to me that with such a prepon- 
derance of "strike zones" claiming re- 
sponsibility for the death of the dino- 
saurs [Earth, October 1991], the real cul- 
prit may have been a "wild pitch." If the 
real killer were a dust cloud depriving 
the earth of heat, light, and oxygen, 
then why would the culprit have to 
have struck the earth at all? Why 
couldn't a pair of asteroids or meteors 
have collided in space, causing the 
same results? The earth's gravity 
could have attracted not only enough 
resulting dust to blind the sun, but also 
enough larger sized pieces of debris to 
account for several of the "pretenders" 
claiming responsibility. 

Robert J. Mika 
Las Vegas, NV 

More on RU 486 

I am a 16-year-old high-school student 
writing to commend Thomas Bass' in- 
terview with Etienne-Emile Baulieu in 
your September issue, Hundreds of thou- 
sands of children die each day from mal- 
nutrition in overpopulated countries 
where birth control is limited. RU 486 
could help. I have a message for anti- 
abortionists: If being against abortion is 
one of the most important things on 
your list, then make your time and en- 
ergy count. Telling people what to do 
and what not to do won't make a world 
of difference, but opening your door to 
a mother and her child in need will. 

Kathy Sigmund 
Ontario, Canada DO 


Desperate for cash, the Soviets are hocking their spare spacecraft 

By James Oberg 

The voice on Ihe tele- 
phone sounded hesitant 
and conspiratorial. "You 
don't know me," the caller dis- 
closed unnecessarily, "but I 
need your advice." Fatalistically 
but patiently, I asked the man 
what it was all about. I get a lot 
of strange calls. 

"What do you think we could 
sell a Soviet spaceship for?" he 
asked. "What kind of price might 
_ we expect?" 

Not so long 
ago, I'd have im- 
mediately dis- 
missed the of- 
fer as a crank 
call, but now 
that an econom- 

Even the 

Soviet Union's 

prized Mir 

space station 

may soon 

go on the block 

as the space 

program holds 

the equivalent 

of a garage sale. 

former Sovi- 
et Union, everything is for sale. 
The caller provided just enough 
obscure details about the hard- 
ware he was selling and the sci- 
entists he represented to earn 
credibility. Not long ago, the idea 
of swinging such a deal would 
have been a cosmic thrill, but 
such reactions had faded after 
the tenth or twentieth call. 

As gently as I could, I informed 
my caller that entrepreneurs and 
even Soviet space officials in 
search of hard currency have 
flooded the market with Soviet 
space vehicles. The equipment 
he offered was the backup mod- 
el to the two Fobos probes recent- 
ly launched towards Mars and its 
small moonlets, an ambitious in- 
ternational project that promised 
to assay Martian resources and 
prove the feasibility of refining rock- 
et fuel on site. Its success could 
have paved the way for manned 
interplanetary flight within a de- 
cade or two. But both probes had 

failed miserably, and with the ec- 
onomic crisis precluding a sec- 
ond try, space officials tossed the 
backup hardware on ihe scrap 
heap to be sold for a few cents 
on the ruble. 

The Fobos probe is a recent ad- 
dition to an intriguing list that vis- 
iting-Soviet scientists began hand- 
ing out to Western space muse- 
ums. It describes sevenieen 
spacecraft and engineering mock- 
ups for sale but gives no prices. 
Among the entries: a demon- 
stration mockup of a Soyuz land- 
ing craft "with three dummies, on 
stand"; a Soyuz-TM spacecraft 
demonstrated in France in 1988; 
four actual manned vehicles 
flown in 1987 and 1988; a nose 
section of a Vertikal probe; a 1:5 
scale model of the Buran shuttle; 
and, for the truly ambitious, a 
pair of full-scale Energiya super 
booster mockups— you pay for 

Despite the Soviets' efforts, ac- 
tual sales have been rare. A Sput- 
nik replica sold for $10,000, and 
a Japanese concern snapped up 
a Mir space station module for 
more than two million dollars and 
then quickly resold it to a muse- 
um. By and large, potential cus- 
tomers have balked at the multi- 
million-dollar price tags on the oth- 
er spacecraft. One Soviet group 
has demanded $1.6 million for a 
backup Venus probe and re- 
ceived not even a nibble. 

"The Japanese ruined the mar- 
ket, with that Mir deal," complains 
Fred Durant, the former top offi- 
cial of the Smithsonian's Air & 
Space Museum and now one of 
the world's leading authorities on 
spaceflight memorabilia and 
space art. "I'd have paid 
$150,000 to $200,000 for a flown 
Vostok," he says, but so far 
none have been sold. Much of 
the equipment for sale is some- 
■ what unremarkable: 'They have 
so many used reentry capsules." 

Pricing the equipment has 
proved next to impossible be- 
cause there is no sales history on 
which to base a price scale. Max 
Ary of the Kansas Cosmosphere 
had been offered training space- 
suils for $10,000 by the manu- 
facturers. "They don't know how 
to price it," he says, because, un- 
der the Communist system, they 
had no idea themselves how 
much the suits cost to make, in 
the course of his dealings with 
spacecraft purveyors, two 
groups often offered him the 
same hardware for prices that dif- 
fered by as much as a few mil- 
lion dollars. 

The spaceship sell-off has its 
limits, Durant observes. "It's not 
like these are the family jewels," 
he says. -noting that nothing as- 
sociated with first-in-space Yuri 
Gagarin is for sale. "There's just 
so much of the stuff that they'll al- 
ways have plenty left," 

Other than the vast supply of 
space equipment, a primary stum- 
bling block to significant sales re- 
mains a lack of Western appre- 
ciation for Soviet space hard- 
ware. But that situation is being 
remedied even now by an unpre- 
cedented series of museum exhib- 
its criss-crossing North America. 
Hundreds of thousands of Amer- 
icans will soon know the differ- 
ence between a Progress and a 
Prognoz, a Soyuz and a Salyut, 
and a Mir and a Mriya. 

With my survey nearly complet- 
ed, my phone rang once more. 
"Jim, listen," began a journalist I 
knew from Washington, D.C. "I'm 
in touch with a Russian at the em- 
bassy who's working for a cosmo- 
naut. They've got this Vostok rock- 
et for sale, three million, negotia- 
ble. Where do you think we can 
find a customer?" 

Oh no, I thought, not another 
one. But now at least their prices 
are negotiable. Maybe they're 
learning. DO 



Are we ready to shift the course of human evolution by altering our Dm? 

By Keith Harary 

The scene is an inner-city 
high school in the dis- 
tant future. Although the 
students are all biue-eyed, fair- 
skinned blonds, they represent a 
range of racial lineages. The gov- 
ernment decided long ago that it 
was easier to eliminate superficial 
physical differences between rac- 
es than to overcome bigotry and 

Advances in 
genetics could 
help cure 
many debilitating 
but it could also 
prompt new 
types of discrimi- 
nation as well 
as governmental 
of reproduction. 

an undes.ired sex through abor- 
tion. "If we can't decide whether 
it is a legitimate use of prenatal 
screening to be able to abort 
based on sex, then how can we 
hope to decide to abort based on 
other genetically determined char- 
acteristics that we deem undesir- 
able?" says Keiley Thomas, an ev- 
olutionary biologist at the Univer- 

are now at work on a 15-year ef- 

prejudice Most of the students sity of California at Berkeley. 
are male and tall because their This question is only a precur- 
parents believed that such traits sor of what is to come. Scientists 
would help their chances of get- 
ting ahead in life. But the near- 
complete dissolution 
of the earth's ozone 
layer has led to an 
epidemic of skin can- 
cer, and a fatal virus 
that affects only tall 
blond boys is spread- 
ing rapidly. Ninety 
percent of the stu- 
dents in the class of 
2081 may not live to 

exorbitant premiums. Employers 
could discriminate against job can- 
didates whose genes make 
them candidates for diseases 
that might mean higher insurance 
premiums or extra sick days. 

Easy access to genetic informa- 
tion could also limit individuals' re- 
productive choices. Those car- 
rying genetic traits deemed un- 
desirable might even find them- 
selves placed in "genetic quaran- 
tine" and prevented from reproduc- 
ing either" through social stigma or 

As bizarre as this 
scenario sounds, we 
may soon be able to 
guide the course of 
human evolution, 
Ongoing genetic re- 
search should en- 
able- us to cure a 
host of previously un- 
beatable diseases 
and perhaps prese- 
lect such character- 
istics as children's sex, hair type, 
eye color, skin shade, ultimate 
height and weight, and even such 
intangibles as disposition. With 
this prospect looming closer, ex- 
perts are warning that our tech- 

fort to map some 100,000 genes outright sterilization. Fetuses deter- 
mined not to meet 
minimal standards ■ 
could also be de- 
stroyed or altered 
through recombi- 
nant DNA technol- 
ogy. "Unless we're 
careful, we may see 
entire populations 
artificially altered 
by families and the 
state," warns Troy 
Duster, a sociologist 
and author of Back 
Door to Eugenics. 

Despite the risks, 
of course, gene 
therapy promises 
substantial benefits. 
"Doctors intervene 
in the natural 
course of diseases 
all the time," says 
Nancy Wexler, who chairs the 
HGI's Ethical and Social Issues 
Working Group. "Gene replace- 
ment therapy is actually a holistic 
kind of medicine because the doc- 
tors are using nature's own rem- 

spread over our 46 chromo- 
somes. The $3 billion project, 

called the Human Genome Initi- 
ative (HGI), will ultimately provide 
us. with the genetic blueprint of 
. ,..: , ;l , ,,..-,, ;;: , ., . ,, .,, .,,. ,,- the human race. Once estab- .. 

nicai expertise may be advancing lished, it could become routine to edies, the healthy genes, to help 

more rapidly than our ability to type iniants against it to identify the patient. 

manage genetic information. and manage inherited tendencies Yet whether genetic research 

Consider that amniocentesis, toward maladies like heart dis- fulfills its proponents highest 

widely used to detect genetic ab- ease and alcoholism. In addition, 

normalities in developing fetuses, insurance companies- might re- 

also reveals the baby's gender, fuse to cover certain inherited 

and doctors report a surge in the - health problems, declaring them 

practice of eliminating children of preexisting conditions, or charge 

aspirations, social protections 
must be. implemented. Says Tho- 
mas, "We've got to establish re- 
sponsible guidelines for these po- 
tent genetic techniques." DO 

Listen To youR Head. 



Owning the sky, hoodwinking the law, and hearing the birds 

By Sandy Fritz 

GUNSH1P 2000 

MicroProse Software, 180 Lake- 
front Drive, Hunt Valley, MD 
21030. $69.95 

PLUSES: Accurate simulation, 
lots of helicopters. 
MINUSES: Awfully violent. 
VERDICT: Start your copters, 

Gunship 2000 updates the clas- 
sic combat helicopter simulation, 
providing more birds, more ord- 
nance, more detailed scenarios. 
Graphics and sound have gotten 
a boost, delivering the feel of pi- 
loting a helicopter. 

You're given the tools to han- 
dle incoming threats and accom- 
plish your missions. A detailed 
manual helps you to learn your 
crafts' capabilities, and a nice re- 


Sergeant James M. Eagan, 
NYSP (Ret.) Avon Books, 1991. 

PLUSES: The precocious title 
says it all. 

MINUSES: Could be con- 
densed into a leaflet. 
VERDICT: A must-read for 
chronic leadfoots. 

This book tells you how to 
speed and how to avoid getting 
a ticket if caught. How many 
books can claim such utility? 

Eagan says cops are terrified 
of being shot when they pull a 
speeder over. Your job: Make 
the cop feel safe (no sudden 

movements) and feed his ego— 
in under 30 seconds. Try flat- 
tery. "That's a noble mustache, 
officer," Another good tactic: 
the Potty Ploy. "Officer, before 
you write that ticket, could you 
follow me to a rest stop? I need to 
use a bathroom immediately." 

play feature lets you 
sion after you've flown it. Some of 
the missions, incidentally, bear 
more than passing resemblance 
to recent events in the Persian 
Gulf, For a wild first-class ride in- 
to deadly situations, look no fur- 
ther than Gunship 2000. 


Malcolm Abrams & Harriet 
Bernstein. Penguin 
Books, 1991. $10.95 
PLUSES: Products 
from the near future. 
MINUSES: Ugly book design. 
VERDICT: Something for 

I couldn't help but notice that sev- 
eral of the entries in More Future 
Stuff would be old hat to Omni 
readers, including blue roses, 
computerized shrinks, and refrig- 
eration by sound. Obviously the 
authors have good taste. 

Much of the future stuff is ma- 
terializing even as you read: voice- 
activated microwave ovens, under- 
sea walkie-talkies, "sun alert" 
watches mated to ultraviolet sen- 
sors. Fun contraptions, but ihe au- 
thors' naive reporting, combined 
with a truly irritating 
book design, thrt 
ens to derail se 
ous browsers. 


Cassette tape and booklet. Lang 
Elliott. Chelsea Green Publishing, 
Rt. 113, P.O. Box 130, Post Mills, 
VT 05058. 1991. $12.95 

PLUSES: Learn the language 
of birds. 

MINUSES: Requires an illustrat- 
ed field guide (not included). 
VERDICT: An eccentric, refresh- 
ing diversion. 

If you enioy an intellectual chal- 
lenge, try mastering the lan- 
guage of birds. Discerning 
the subtle differences between 
species could take a lifetime. 

Volume one covers yard, gar- 
den, and city birds; volume two 
isolates the calls of country 
birds. Even a casual listen will en- 
able you to tell the difference be- 
tween a cheerfully singing bird 
and an alarmed one. But to go 
deeper, you'll need field glasses, 
a detailed guide book, and pa- 
tience. Hearing a call in the wild 
and then finding it on the tapes 
requires an aural memory rare in 
human beings. DQ 





■ 1 

Pping and t 

; - : - : 
uy two more 
■.-:;_■■: .' . \ 
29.95. plus 

ig am ha 


may cancel 

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mes a **><). 

if Ihe CIu ■ 
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Electronic road maps, hand-held navigators, and automatic toll collectors 

By Jeffrey Zygmont 

James Costantino relates 
how he recently spent 
two hours traveling eight 
miles to his office in downtown 
Washington, an average speed of 
four miles per hour. Considering 
that a camel caravan travels at 
eight, he says, "they moved 
twice as fast 7000 years ago as I 
move now." 

coming of 
vehicle and high- 
way systems 
in which cars com- 
municate with 
computerized traf- 
fic controllers 
that steer them 
away from jams 

Today, traffic 
congestion is too 
great a problem 
to ignore, he 
warns. Costanti- 
no is executive di- 
rector of IVHS 
America (Intelli- 
gent Vehcile High- 
way Systems), a 
nonprofit group 
formed in August 
1990 at the re- 
quest of the De- 
partment of Trans- 
portation, mainly 
to coordinate the 
many traffic con- 
trol programs. 

IVHS America, 
a public-private partnership of 
more than 300 members includ- 
ing state and federal agencies 
and car and electronic compa- 
nies, oversees a dizzying array of 
technologies. They include Ad- 
vanced Transportation Manage- 
ment Systems, which monitor traf- 
fic and try to ease congestion, 
and Advanced Traveler Informa- 
tion Systems, which utilize dash- 
board mounted navigators like 
TravelPilot. Eventually they'll com- 

municatewith traffic management 
systems to guide drivers away 
from heavy congestion. 

Maybe 20 years hence there 
will be Advanced Vehicle Control 
Systems. These will be automatic 
chauffeurs that take complete con- 
trol of a car on freeways equipped 
with tracking sensors, allowing it 
to join a platoon of like-equipped 
cars traveling to- 
gether at high 
speed while their 
drivers read the 
comics or snooze. 
Costantino says 
it will take maybe 
$35 to $40 billion 
over the next -20 
years to develop 
and test these tech- 
nologies and may- 
be as much as 
$250 billion to 
build the systems. 
So far, federal 
support seems as- 
sured, especially 
as the U.S. com- 
petes with pro- 
grams in Europe 
and Japan. The Eu- 
ropean and Japa- 
nese system- that 
advise and direcl 
drivers are 
vanced enough to 
be put into wide- 
spread use once 
squabbles over is- 
sues like stan- 
dards for national and internation- 
al uniformity are resolved. 

Advocates say the first ele 
ments of smart highways are al 
ready in use in the U.S., pointing 
to such systems as the automal 
ic toil collectors being tested : 
Oklahoma and Florida. They iden- 
tify an individual car by reading an 
ID number transmitted via radio, 
automatically deducting toll from 
the driver's account. 

Eventually, a computer naviga- 

tor in each car will communicate 
with a computerized traffic central 
to help people get around. This 
system is still in the test and dem- 
onstration stages. Before it can be 
used,the federal government 
must set standards that will allow 
all the various pieces of equip- 
ment to work together harmonious- 
ly. Then comes the task of install- 
ing the systems' public portions- 
sensors and monitors to report on 
traffic conditions, computers to 
process the information, broad- 
cast systems to distribute it. 

In the meantime, private indus- 
try must develop lower cost equip- 
ment for cars. Motorola is close. 
So is GM, which expects naviga- 
tor sales to take off when these 
back-seat drivers drop to the 
price of an auto air conditioner or 
radio— maybe $600 to $700. Op- 
timists say all this may happen by 
the middle of the decade. The 
IVHS experts push it closer to 
2010. Stan Honey says, "It could 
happen sooner than the IVHS com- 
munity thinks." 

Honey is the pioneer in street 
navigation who founded Etak, 
based in Menlo Park, California, 
in 1983. Etak now provides digi- 
tal map data bases for traveler 
information and transportation 
management systems to the Jap- 
anese. Honey says that compa- 
nies in Japan are developing 
hand-held navigators that could 
guide travelers to their destina- 
tions. Traffic information could be 
broadcast over private networks. 
"I wish the IVHS community 
was more familiar with today's sys- 
tems," he says. Rather than rein- 
venting such devices as electron- 
ic road maps that guide drivers 
through unfamiliar territory, Hon- 
ey argues thai official efforts in in- 
telligent vehicle highway systems 
should build on technology that al- 
ready exists and set up the guide- 
lines thai would let companies re- 
ally start selling the stuff. DO 



Sometimes the simplest ideas turn out to be the bbst ones 

By Ben Barber 

There were 15 minutes 
left before the -train from 
Bombay to Delhi was to 
leave, so I decided io buy a cup 
of "cha," sweet, milky Indian tea. 
I gulped the brew served in a 
brown clay cup in order to return 
the container before catching the 
train. Looking around, however, 
I noticed other customers simply 
dashing their empty cups to the 
ground where they were quickly 
crushed into the red-brown earth 
by the throngs, These, were dis- 
posable cups — Indian style. 

A month later, I bought coffee 
to go at Washington, DCs Union 
Station. It came in a plastic foam 
cup that will take hundreds of 
years to decompose in a landfill, 
all the while giving off ozone-de- 
stroying chemicals. After I drank 
the coffee, I tossed the cup into 
a plastic trash bag to join a grow- 
ing collection of serving items des- 
tined for the dump. 

I wondered, how could we 
make the technology flow — typi- 
cally from West to East — a more 
even exchange, with the planet 
as beneficiary? Would my chil- 
dren one day buy drinks, sweets, 
or even compact discs in packag- 
es made from leaves, bamboo, or 
other materials that decay into a 
rich compost? "There's a big ques- 
tion as to what is adaptable from 
,the Third World," remarks re- 
searcher John Young of the 
WorldWatch Institute. "Much of it 
takes low wages and a need for 
materials to justify. Sometimes 
you can extract a kernel of Third 
World wisdom." 

Already some McDonald's fran- 
chises have cut down on foam 
packaging. Paper cups are mak- 
ing a comeback, and many cities 
are introducing recycling for news- 
papers, plastic, aluminum, and 
glass. Though these may not 
look like it, Young says, they are 
Third World solutions to ecolog- 
ical problems. 

While most of us pay high pric- 
es for tasteless vegetables trucked 
from one coast to the other, the 
Chinese city of Shanghai pro- 
duces all of its own vegetables, 
fertilizing them with human 
waste, and exports a surplus. In 
a similar vein, Washington, DC, 
has begun packaging sewage 
sludge for lawn fertilizer. 

Still, our ingrained garbage hab- 
its will die hard. 
"It's a mindset, a 
mentality," says 
Steve Hirsch of 
Volunteers in Tech- 
nical Assistance. 
"Every time I go 
to a garage sale, 
Isee people throw- 
ing away things 
that are consid- 
ered gold in devel- 
oping countries." 
Recently in Mar- 
rakesh, Morocco, 
Hirsch says he 
lost the key to his 
bicycle iock and 
visited a lock- 
smith to have the 
lock cut away 
from the chain, 
Instead, the lock- 
smith drilled four 
small holes, re- 
moved the lock's 
Innards, made a 
new key, and 
reassembled the 
lock in about ten 
minutes. "Where 
could you have 
done that in 
America?" asks Hirsch. 

In fact, technology these days 
flows almost exclusively from the 
West to developing countries: sat- 
ellites, miracle rice, bypass sur- 
gery, and plastic bags. Yet India, 
Africa, China, and Latin America 
remain storehouses of knowledge 
that might help save the planet 
from the glut of its 

Each time i throw a plastic 
plate in the trash, I remember 
how I tossed the banana leaf 
from which I had eaten my rice 
to the ground in Madras, India, 
and saw it immediately chewed 
up by a gentle cow. And I remem- 
ber the Artibonite Valley of Haiti 
where not a speck of plastic, met- 
al, or glass spoils the earthen 
paths, fields, and courtyards. 

from our neigh- 
bors: Could 
the old-fashioned, 
correct ways of 
cultures see 


So far I am aware of no system- 
atic search for appropriate, cost- 
effective, Third World ideas that 
can be adapted in the West to pre- 
serve the planet. But as the barg- 
es loaded with garbage find few- 
er places to dump their loads, 
some of the oldest ideas on 
earth may turn out to be the 
most important. DO 



The top games range from cards to kinetic sculpture 

By Scot Morris 

Our choices of the best new 
games and products are 
listed not by preference but 
by suggested retail price. 

Set (Set, Inc., 301 
Cowley, East Lansing, Ml 
48823; $11.95). Chil- 
dren often beat adults and 
girls often beat boys at 
this "family game of visual 
perception." Not since 
Pictionary has a game 
appealed to such diverse 

Master Labyrinth 

eighty-one cards, each with 
four pieces of information — 
symbol (diamond, oval, or 
squiggle); number (one, 
two, or three shapes); color 
(red, green, or purple); 
and density (open, solid, or 
shaded). Deal twelve cards 
faceup on the table and 
look for three-card "sets." 
They can all be green 
diamonds with one of them 
open, another solid, and 
the third striped, for ex- 
ample. Or they can aii be 
different — for example, 
one open green diamond, 
two solid red ovals, and three 
striped purple squiggles. 
For any two cards in the 
deck, only one other card 
will complete the set. The 

26 OMNI 

game can be played 
solitaire or by any number of 
players, all trying to be the 
first to shout, "Set!" 

The Spiral Stair Puzzle 
(Architest, 2269 Chestnut ■ 
Street, #350, San Francisco, 
CA 94123; $30). Can 
you solve this intriguing 
puzzle even when given full 
instructions to build the 
spiral staircase from eighty 
maplewood pieces around a 
central newel post? Careful 
planning, a steady hand, 
and a generous supply of 
patience definitely pay off. 
Along the way, learn some 
basic engineering— the 
running bond course, Step 
and cantilever— and an 
appreciation of this ancient 
architectural discovery. 

Master Labyrinth (Interna- 
tional Playthings, $34), Two 
to four players must move 
their pieces through cor- 
ridors in this science-fiction 
art board game, racing to 
pick up (in numerical order) 
twenty-one ingredients 
required for casting a magic 
spell. The corridors shift 
on each turn, so a path that 
is open on one turn may 
be closed on the next. 
Careful planning will open a 
path for you and close it for ' 
others. If you don't look 
ahead, you'll find yourself 
stranded in a cul-de-sac , 
away from all the goodies. 

Pyramis (Abalone, $.35). A 
strategy and visualization 
game for two players, 
Pyramis is a simple, original 
idea. The rules can be 
learned in seconds, but the 
strategy is far from trivial. 

The board is a three- 
sided pyramid that rotates 
so players can see all 
sides. You can place a tile 

on any side of the board, 
but gravity demands that 
the tiles be built up the side 
from the bottom of the 
pyramid, The object is to 
join exactly five of your 
pieces— and no more — at 
their sides. And patterns 
may continue around the 
edge of the pyramid to the 
next side. 

GeoSafari (Educational 
Insights, $99.95). Can you 
find Mount Vesuvius, Lake 
Victoria, the Atlas Moun- 
tains, and the Gobi Desert 
on the world map? Marketed 
as an electronic geography 
learning game for kids, 
GeoSafari can challenge 
inquisitive minds of any age. 
A handicapping system 
allows separate lime limits 
for answering so that, for 
example, a child might get a 
minute to answer while 
an adult will get only fifteen 

You can also order 
additional quiz cards that 
range from flags 
and puzzles 
to ani- 

mals and languages. And 
blank cards allow you to 
create lessons for your own 
neighborhood or places 
spotlighted in the news. 

String Ray (With Design in 
Mind, $129.95). Created 
by a London artist who 
wanted an interactive kinetic 
sculpture. String Ray con- 
sists of an ordinary string 
stretched between two 
rotating motors at the ends 
of two "rabbit ear" anten- 
nas. When turned on, the 

string vibrates and assumes 
all kinds of beautiful forms, 
from pure sinusoidal waves 
to chaotic patterns. An 
adjustable strobe light adds 
a rainbow of color. String 
Ray is beautiful "scientific 
art," a three-dimensional 
ight sculpture sure 
to fascinate 
all. DO 



Trauma care units are in shock, but you may be the next casualty 

By Tom Dworetzky 

Trauma is an 
equal opportunity 
tragedy. But 
hospitals every- 
where are 
being forced to 
close their 
trauma centers. 

In Dallas, just another typical 
night at Parkland Hospital's trau- 
ma center: three dozen cases 
on the floor— a full house. 
There's an innocent civilian 
caught by a stray bullet during a 
drive-by shooting, a driver 
crunched in a pileup on the inter- 
state. When the radio warns that 
yet another hemorrhaging individ- 
ual is en route, the people at Par- 
kland wave the ambulance off to 
another hospital farther away. 
"Trauma sat," is how they put it— 
for trauma unit saturated. Tough 
luck. The delay costs a life. 

This type of situation has rachet- 
ed trauma care to crisis propor- 
tions in cities around the country. 
Trauma units everywhere are over- 
crowded as never before. This 
full house is not, however, a 
boon to hospitals. Parkland, a pub- 
lic facility, expects to lose $23 mil- 
lion this year in unreimbursed ex- 
penses thanks to trauma care, 
which can run up to a half a mil- 
lion dollars per patient. Overall, 
trauma care is running nearly a 
$300 million a year in uncompen- 
sated funds in Texas alone. Pri- 
vate hospitals, unable to take 
these losses, are being forced to 
close their trauma units. Domino 
effect! Closings push more of the 
load onto the remaining trauma 
centers — driving them deeper in- 
to dept and forcing more hospi- 
tals to close their units. "You may 
not think this is important to you," 
says Parkland's president and 
CEO, Dr. Ron Anderson. "But trau- 
ma is an equal opportunity trag- 
edy. It doesn't matter what your 
life-style or health insurance is 
like," About 140,000 Americans 
die each year from these severe 
injuries, and trauma is the lead- 
ing killer of people under age for- 
ty-five in this country. 

A recent study conducted by 
the General Accounting Office de- 
termined that there are other im- 
pacts of this crisis that affect all 

patients in a hospital. Besides the 
uncompensated trauma unit 
care that must be passed on as 
increased prices to other pa- 
tients, there's also the disruption 
of operating room schedules and 
physicians which affects patients 
slated for surgery. There's also 
the fear physicians leel at the pos- 
sibility of getting sued by the trau- 
ma patients they care for, with 
whom they have no prior patient- 
doctor relationship. Lastly, 
there's the unfortunate reality 
that trauma units are where vic- 
tims of many societal ills wind up. 
In the crowded halls are the fall- 
en -in our losing battle with 
drugs, the increased use of as- 
sault weapons, rising crime, All 
have combined to shift the nature 
of trauma care from blunt injury 
(such as car crashes) to penetrat- 
ing injury (knives and bullets). At 
Parkland in the past, blunt injuries 
led with about 70 percent. Now, 
shockingly, penetrating injuries 
make up 70 percent 

The difference that prompt trau- 
ma care can make is so profound 

doctors call the first sixty minutes 
after injury the golden hour. Stud- 
ies show that mortality can be re- 
duced by as much as 70 percent 
if intervention takes place within 
the golden hour. It can drop as 
low as 30 percent if treatment is 
delayed four hours in severe cas- 
es in which shock is a factor, 
"That's why trauma care is worth 
paying for, like a public utility," 
says Anderson.- 

What's to be done? One sug- 
gestion, according to Anderson, 
is to finance trauma centers with 
taxes on the instruments most like- 
ly to cause trauma: cars, guns, 
and ammunition. The cost would 
be small for the individual. The def- 
icit that Texas runs could be cov- 
ered almost completely by a $15 
tax on auto registration alone. 
And the benefit is as clear as car 
insurance. You may never wreck 
your car, but would you drive 
around without coverage? Maybe 
you'll never need a trauma cen- 
ter, either, but do you really want 
to risk the possibility that none 
will be around if you do? DO 



What's your take on the air we breath, the water we drink, overflowing 

landfills, big holes in the sky, and other pollutants? 

Last spring, an arma- 
da of jets from the 
four corners of the 
globe landed in the an- 
cient port of Rotter- 
dam, in the Nether- 
lands, offloading an 
exotic array of cargo, 
Top level executives 
from the world's larg- 
est and most influen- 
tial corporations, in- 
cluding Alcoa, Exxon, 
Union Carbide, and 
AT&T, converged to 
achieve a unique ob- 
jective. Over 750 del- 
egates convened at 
the second World In- 
dustry Conference on 

Environmental Management (WICEM) organized by the 
International Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with 
the United Nations to exchange insights and ideas regard- 
ing the future of planet Earth. 

The very fact that CEOs and VPs represented their compa- 
nies clearly shows that in the nineties, big business considers 
the environment an important issue. Helmut Sihler, con- 
ference chair and head of Germany's Henkel Corporation, 
advocated "environmental audits"— similar to the tradition- 
al economic audit but instead tracking a company's eco- 
logical performance on an annual basis. William Ruck- 
elshaus. chairman of Browning-Ferris Industries (and former 
head of the Environmental Protection Agency) proposed 
worldwide access to information on "green" policies and prod- 
ucts and an aggressive program to inform the public 
about corporate environmental performance. 

The world's corporate head honchos shuttled between 
seminars expostulating the joys of environmental manage- 
ment and promulgating the notion thai businesses work 
with governments and environmental groups. At WICEM, 
there was not a shadow of a doubt as to whether or not a 
company should clean up one's own baliwick. Sawy corpo- 
rations understand that to operate competitively, they must 
operate clean. To insure that this credo becomes orthodoxy 
throughout the world, CEOs debate the concept of sustain- 
able development. Big businesses have studied the demo- 
graphics as assiduously as anyone and know that the 
world's population is expected to double in the next 38 
years. Conferees devoutly believe that if a decent standard 

of living is to be avail- 
able to the world's 
next generations, in- 
dustry must devise 
ways to insure this by 
providing medicines, 
potable water, hous- 
ing, transportation, 
and communications 
for the world's new in- 
habitants. At the 
same time, industry 
must devise ways to 
provide these essen- 
tials for twice again as 
many people without 
destroying rain for- 
ests, poisoning rivers 
■and oceans, expend- 
ing all reserves of fos- 
sil fuels, or destroying the Earth's protective ozone layer, 
These are the csrd.na orin;;ioles of sustainable development, 
according to the Final Declaration of the Second World Indus- 
try Conference on Environmental Management, which enjoins 
industry to employ its "technical competence to solve many 
of today's environmental threats and preempt tomorrow's." 
What can industry do? Integrate environmental criteria in- 
to economic practice; provide managerial, technical, and fi- 
nancial resources to tackle environmental problems; analyze 
the environmental impact of any new product during its en- 
tire life cycle— from raw materials to disposal or recycling; 
improve energy efficency; apply First World environmental 
standards to Third World factories;, and extend economic 
and technical assistance to developing nations to help 
them develop ecologically sound practices. 

In order to adhere to the demands of sustainable devel- 
opment, corporations can no longer "export pollution" to coun- 
tries whose desire for development translates into lax envi- 
ronmental regulation. In his closing remarks to his colleagues 
assembled at WICEM, E.S. Woolard Jr., chairman of Du 
Pont, said, "When the history of environmentalism in the 
last quarter of this century is written, sustainable devel- 
opment may prove to be the major conceptual advance to 
have taken place during that period. We should be encour- 
aged that industry has demonstrated an ability to think 
creatively about the environment, to think across industy 
lines and national boundaries, and to think not only of the 
needs of incjsirigl'zoc nations, but of the whole world." 




Some 4.7 million cubic 
meters of nuclear waste 
have accumulated in the 
United States since the 
Manhattan Project in 1942, 
and the radioactive piles of 
debris — generated by the 
military as well as 112 
operating nuclear power 
plants— grow by 100,000 
cubic meters every year. 

Currently, most of the 
waste material is sealed in 
steel drums and tanks 
and buried 30 to 40 feet 
deep in unlined trenches at 
federal sites in South 
Carolina, Washington State, 
and Nevada. But these 
waste dumps are steadily 
filling up while the nuclear 
industry and a host of 
federal, state, and local 
agencies try to choose 
between several controver- 
sial contenders for a more 
permanent storage site, 
including Carlsbad Cav- 

Underground radioactivity: Vterk- 
ers prepare waste tor burial. 

erns in New Mexico and 
Yucca Mountain in Nevada. 

An impressive array of 
technologies offers hope for 
cleaning up the radioactive 
mess by the target date 
of 2019. Of these possibili- 
ties, the most promising 
may be vitrification, accord- 
ing to James Buelt, a 
researcher at Battelle 
Memorial Institute's Pacific 
Northwest Laboratory in 
Richland, Washington. 

Inserting electrodes in- 
to contaminated soil, vitrifi- 
cation subjects low-level 
waste like cesium and 
strontium to 615,000 kilowatt- 
hours of electricity and 
temperatures of 3.000T. 
The technique turned one 
test area into a 900-ton 
block of leach-proof, glass- 
like material. 

Plasma technology, anoth- 
er contender, superheats 
waste with a flame hotter 
than 18,0OO°F. It decreases 
the volume of contaminated- 
metal-reactor hardware 
by a factor of 4, reducing it 
to metal ingots. 

Yet another technique, 
bioremediation, stabilizes 
radioactive soil and ground- 
water through naturally 
occurring microbes that 
use nutrients to immobilize 
radionuclides. Still more 
exotic — and perhaps too ■- 
expensive — is transmuta- 
tion, which puts long-lived, 
hazardous components of 
spent fuel back into a 
reactor core and then uses 
fission to break the 
components down into 
elements with half-lives of 
perhaps 300 years, far 
shorter than their normal 
lifespans.— George Nobbe 


37% Paper products 
18% Yard waste 
10% Metal 
10% Glass 

7% Food wastes 
6% Plastic 
I 6% Other 

I 4% Wood 


" v.."...,. 

Remember the Mobro, the 
huge, trash-laden platform 
that headed out from Islip, 
New York, in search of a 
landfill and returned months 
later because no one would 
accept it? It looks like the 
Mobro will be a symbol for 
the Nineties, 

Landfills are closing at a 
frighLcning rate. According to 
the Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA), the United 
States had 20,000 landfills in 
1978. By 1988 that number 
had dropped below 7000. 
During the same interval, the 
country's volume of munici- 
pal waste increased from 
150 million tons to 180 million 
tons. Each person in the 
United States now throws 
away an average of 3.5 
pounds of solid waste a day. 
Today, 16 states have less 
than five years of landfill 
capacity left, says Allen 
Blakey of the National Solid 
Wastes Management Associ- 
I ation. Cities are in trouble, 

too: Chicago will run out of 
space by 1994, Los Angeles 
by 1995. Community resist- 
ance has made new dumps 
nearly impossible to site. 

EPA safety regulations 
passed in September will 
also add to the expense of 
building a facility. They 
require that new landfills 
have liners, wells to detect 
groundwater contamina- 
tion, monitors to detect 
methane, and a means for 
monitoring teachate tor 30 
years after the site closes. 

More aggressive recycling 
can reduce the volume 
of waste, and some envi- 
ronmental groups are calling 
on manufacturers to cut the 
amount of packaging they 
use. But fundamentally, 
American consumers just 
buy too much and throw it 
away. To help combat this 
problem, environmentalists 
encourage a vigilant ap- 
proach — "precycling." Given 
the choice of two roughly 
equivalent products, they 
say, buy the one with less 
packaging.— Mark Fischetti 


Six years ago, Congress 
told the Environmental Pro- 
tection Agency (EPA) to 
regulate 83 of the nation's 
worst drinking water contami- 
nants, following up the 
Safe Drinking Water Act, 
passed nearly 20 years ago. 
So far the agency has 
established legal health limits 
and set safety standards for 
about 60 of the contami- 
nants, including vinyl chlo- 
ride, a probable carcinogen. 
Does this mean America's 
tap water has improved? 

"It's hare! losay ; f the wale' 
has ;7]0"en better or worse," 
says EPA water officer Maria 
Gomez Taylor. "But we do 
have more standards. The 
number has doubled in the 
last we years." 

The EPA and the state 
authorities lack the funds and 
personnel to enforce those 
standards adequately, Be- 
tween 1986 and 1988, the 
Centers for Disease Control 
tallied 26.000 cases of 
waterborne illness, possibly 
only a fraction of the real 
total. Today, the EPA 
estimates, one in six 
Americans drinks lead- 
co.-ita'T, neted waier, and a 


In the Seventies, seien- 
sts began to discover that 
lakes from New York to 
Sweden had become vine- 
y, acidic pools devoid of 
fish, frogs, turtles, snakes, 
and plants. They blamed 
the damage on acid rain, a 
phenomenon caused by 
sulfur dioxide and nitrogen 
oxides emitted by power 
plants, factories, and cars; 

the two gases comoinc with 
water in the atmosphere to 
produce sulfuric. acid and 
nitric acid that fall as rain. 
Despite squabbles over the 
cost, the 1 970 Clean Air Act 
and -subsequent amend- 
ments went a long way 
toward cleaning up industri- 
al emissions. But they failed 
to neutralize the rain. 

From 1970 to 1988 man- 
made emissions of sulfur 
dioxide in the United States 
decreased, between 28 
percent and 30 percent, 
according to the U.S. 
National Acid Precipitation 
Assessment Program 
(NAPAP), The '-1990 amend- 
ments to the act mandate 
that by the year 2000 such 
emissions.be reduced to 
50 percent of 1980 levels. 

Sadly, the acid rain keeps 
on falling, "Acidity in 
rain does not seem to go 
down," says Patricia 
Irving, NAPAP director. 

It seems scrubbers 
installed to remove fly ash 

from smokestacks also 
removed the alkaline calci- 
um that- used to help 
neutralize acid rain. In 
addition, the country has 
paved so many dirt roads 
and changed its agricultural 
practices so much that it 
produces less neutralizing 
limestone dust. 

Acid rain leaves agricul- 
ture largely untouched, 
but it devastates buildings, 
some forests, and cul- 
tural items,. such as the 
stone lions at the New York 
Public Library. 

The residua! effects of 
acidification on lakes and 
streams will probably linger 
for decades, even when 
the provisions of the 1990 
Clean Air Act gradually cut 
acid rain. "In sensitive areas 
like the Adirondacks," 
where soils are thin and lack 
alkaline material, "we pro- 
ject only 8 percent of the. ■ 
lakes will improve in the: next 
50 years," Irving says. 

recent survey discovered 
nitrate in more than half the 
drinking wells tested. Chlo- 
rine is routinely used to 
disinfect municipal water 
supplies, although under 
certain conditions it can 
combine with organic matter 
to produce poisons. Seven 
out of ten Americans regular- 
ly drink chlorinated water, 
which may double the risk of 
accusing bladder cancer. 

In an effort to eradicate taint 
ed tap water once and for all, 
sc-o experts now advocate 
new disinfectants rather than 
new standards. But these 
alternatives may produce 
as-yet-unknown health prob- 
lems of their own. 

And while water disinfec- 
tants are a major problem, 
"99 percent of harmful 
chemicals in drinking water 
are there through the 
careless disposal of industri- 
al and household waste," 
says Washington State 
University drinking-water 
expert Richard Bull, 

—Scott Fierman 


Smog gets in your eyes: Maybe it doesn 't look tike it. but Los Angele; 
air is cleaner than it's been in 40 years. 


Decades ago, comedians 
quipped that in Los Angeles 
you woke up to the coughing 
of the birds. These days, the 
birds and the comedians 
have changed their tune. 

"Our air is cleaner than 
ever," says Tom Eichhorn, 
spokesman for the South 
Coast Air Quality Manage- 
ment District thai encom- 
passes the Los Angeles 
area. "In 1955 our ozone 
levels hit .68 parts per million 

In the last three years, it has 
not exceeded .35 parts 
per million. We cut pollution 
in half during a period when 
population more than 
doubled and cars increased 
from 2.3 to 9 million." 

Nevertheless, the levels oi 
smog in Los Angeles air 
stiii oxcesdsd : ederal stan- 
dards of .12 parts per million 
of ozone on 130 days in 
1990. By comparison, New 
York City, the next worst 
city, violated Federal stan- 
dards an average of 17 days 
a year from 1987 to 1989. 
Still, just 14 years ago, Los 
Angeles smog levels ex- 
ceeded federal standards on 
208 days, making the recent 
drop a major improvement. 

Air-quality officials attrib- 
ute the cleaner air to 
stringent state standards for 

auto emissions, which forced 
automakers to build spe- 
cial, cleaner cars to be sold 
in California. 

Smog forms when sunlight 
hits hydrocarbons and 
nitrogen oxides emitted by 
various sources: Cars 
account for about 50 percent 
of the troublesome pollut- 
ants, industry contributes 
another 25 percent, and 
consumer products, includ- 
ing paint and hair spray, 
supply the rest. 

To sense how much Los 
Angeles' air has improved, 
sniff the fumes at Mexico 
City, says Mary Nichols of the 
Natural Resources Defense 
Council. "They have only 
one third the cars we do but 
exceed ozone standards 
70 percent of the time." 

—Ben Barber 


To a visitor. Prince William 
Sound off Alaska seems a 
symphony of snow-capped 
peaks and rocky beaches. 
But the mussels are .laden 
with hydrocarbons, sea 
otters sicken and die, and 
the bald eagles that survive 
may well carry the tick- 
ing time bomb of -reproduc- 
tive damage. 

These are a few of the 
long-term-effects of the 
massive spill of 11 million 
gallons of crude oil from the 
Exxon tanker Valdez on 
March 24, 1989, in pristine 
Prince William Sound. While 
most of the oil evaporated, 
broke down, or was c eanod 
up, much remains in the 
subsurface of the beaches 

and in ocean-floor sediment. 
It continues to damage the 
see grassesand to enter the 
food chain through the 
shellfish that otters and other 
animals eat. Even the 
well-intentioned efforts to 
clean the water' with 
chemicals, and the beaches 
with hot water, have left 
damage,. destroying microor- 
ganisms at the bottom of the' 
food chain. 

"It's Impossible to say 
how long before the area 
returns to normal," says 
Robert Adler, a lawyer with, 
the Natural Resources 
Defense Council. 

Some 350,000 to 500,000 
birds died in the spill, and 
many more had their 
breeding disrupted.. Al- 
though 144 of the 2,200 bald 
eagles in the- area, were 
found dead, the toll is likely 

several times higher.. Eighty- 
five percent of the eggs laid 
near heavily oiled beaches 
have failed to hatch. 

Salmon eggs exposed to 
oil in 1989 showed 70 
percent greater mortality, 
and larvaefrom heavily oiled 
streams had club fins and 
other abnormalities. 

The damage to wildlife left 
the greatest impact, on the 
Native American residents 
of 15 Alutiiq villages. They 
had to completely halt their 
subsistence food gathering 
arid hunting in 1989 and 
have only gradually begun 
to resume their life-style. 

—Ben Ba'ber 

Oil and wildlife ooni mx. as me 1939 f.xxon oil spill off Alaska's 
Sound proved. ^ 



records since 1978 show 
that ozone— a. rare form of 
oxygen found in the upper 

atmosphere, some 9 to 
30 milesabOve-the. earth's ■ 
surface, that protects 
us from the sun's ultraviolet 
radiation— is vanishing. 
By 1985 scientists realized 
that a "hole" roughly 
twice the size of Antarctica . 
'had formed in the ozone 
layer above that continent. 
Now, during the' months- of 
September and October, 
about two thirds of the 
ozone that, once shielded 
Antarctica disappears. 
Aircraft experiments 
.proved that chlorofiuorocar- 
bons (CFCs)— substances 
used in spray cans, air con-. 
ditioners, and refrigerators- 
are the primary cause of the 
Antarctic- ozone hole: CFCs 
gradually release chlorine 

atoms, which destroy ozone-. 
Subsequent experiments 
in the late Eighties revealed 
that an ozone hole may 
soon form over the North ■ 
Pole, as well, with, some 
scientists predicting, that 
more than 10 percent of the 
ozone there will vanish by 
decade's end.. Recent' 
satellite data also indicate 
that ozone is disappear- 
ing from the Northern 
Hemisphere at twice the rate 
. previously suspected. 
Consequently, the Envi- 
ronmental Protection 
Agency now predicts an 
additional 12 million skin- 
cancer cases and 200,000 
resultant deaths in- the 
United States over the next 
50 years. 


Recycling, an afterthought 
as recently as the early 
Eighties, has become sec- 
ond nature to many Ameri- 
cans. Since 1986, 40 states 
have enacted legislation 
requiring communities to 
recycle parts of their waste. 

The effect has been 
dramatic. In 1980 the nation 
recycled only 14 million tons 
of its municipal solid waste 
and burned virtually none to 
produce energy. In 1988, 24 
million tons were recycled, 
and 26 million more were 
incinerated to produce 
electricity, according to 
Marge Franklin of Franklin 
Associates, a consulting firm 
in Prairie Village, Kansas. 

Recycling of certain mate- 
rials continues to increase 
steadily. The country now 
recycles 55 percent of all 

In response to this threat, 

the industrial. nations 
of the' world have agreed to 
phase out production of 
■ CFCs and other ozone- 
depleting chemicals by the 
year 2000; developing ■ 
countries have- until 2010' to 
do the. same. Still, that 
some CFCs survive in the 
atmosphere for 75 to 125 
years compounds this 
problem. "Even if we don't 
add another ounce of 
chlorine to the atmosphere," 
says Mike Kurylo, NASA's 
manager for upper-air 
research, "it will take about 
a century for ozone levels 
to return to their pre-1 985 
levels, before the ozone 
hole occurred." 

- Steve Nad:S 

aluminum cans. Reuse of 
glass also continues to rise, 
as does the composting of 

yard waste. 

But recycling has become 
an industry and thus subject 
to the vagaries of the 
marketplace. While Ameri- 
cans recycle one quarter of 
the 67 million tons of paper 
consumed annually, the 
recycling industry probably 
couldn't handle the remain- 
ing three quarters even if 
people brought it in. Because 
demand for recycled paper 
now roughly equals supply, 
few recycling mills are being 
built, says Allen Blakey of the 
National Solid Wastes Man- 
agement Association. To 
increase demand, environ- 
mentalists want the federal 
government to begin procur- 
ing recycled paper. 

The paper recycling 
process has been refined so 
that it's inexpensive and 

efficient, but recycling plastic 
is expensive, requires a lot of 
energy, and generates 
pollution. The furor over juice 
boxes epitomizes the plastic- 
recycling predicament: Amer- 
icans purchase more than 
four billion of the convenient 
little boxes each year and 
recycle almost none. Made 
of laminated layers of paper, 
foil, and plastic, these 

about 55 percent of all alu- 

so-called aseptic packages 
produce pulp of such a low 
grade that no one wants to 
buy it. 

Further improvement in 
recycling hinges on legisla- 
tion, including financial 
incentives. For example, the 
city of Seattle now charges 
residents for each can of 
garbage collected. 

— Mark Fsci'eth 



The International Arthurian Society 
<7o The Franklin Mint 
Franklin Center, Pennsylvania 19091 
Please enter my order for the authorized re-creatior 
of King Arthur's Excalibur sword. Crafted of hand- 
polished tempered steel and embellished with 
sterling silver and 24 karaL geld electroplate. The 
custom-designed display is included at no addi- 

Ineed SEND NO MONEY NOW. I will be billed in ter, 
equal monthly installments of S67.S0" each with my 
first pay men i due prior u, shipment. 


Please mail by January 31, 1992. 





Once, only driftwood, 
seaweed, and shells washed 
up on America's beaches. 

Now, hypodermic needles, 
plastic bags, and other 
potentially dangerous debris 
litter our shores. Despite 
widespread publicity, gar- 
bage continues to be 
dumped at sea. 

In 1988, six East Coast 
states issued 475 ocean and 
bay beach closures and 
advisories due to high 
bacteria counts, reports the 
Natural Resources Defense 
Council (NRDC). By 1990, 
the number jumped to 1429. 

"The problem does not 
appear to be getting better," 
says NRDC environmental 
engineer Diane Cameron. 

The major culprit in 
bacterial pollution is sewage 
that mixes with storm water in 

Boston, New York, and other 
cities. Heavy rains overflow 
sewage plants, spilling raw 
human waste into rivers and 
bays. Redesigning these 
sewage systems will take 
billions of dollars. 

Garbage dumping, how- 
ever, is easier to regulate and 
control. The Marine Pollution 
Treaty, signed by the United 
States in 1987, has outlawed 
dumping plastic and other 
trash ai sea, but enforcement 
has been lax until recently, so 
"it's too soon to see the 
effects." says Jil Zilligen of 
the Center for Marine 

"Enforcement is needed — 
the Coast Guard is under- 
staffed and underfunded," 
Zilligen says. She praises 
citizens who reported boats 
dumping trash, including 
passengers of cruise ships 
who blew the whistle on their 
captains.— Ben Barber 

. The plastic holder from the six-pack that you enjoyed last Saturday 
ccuirs k\H a oirc Please remember to cut the rings. 


After decades of public 
oressure and regulation, 
the IIS. logging industry 
has finally become at least 
somewhat environmentally 
responsible. American de- 
mand for wood- continues to 
rise, yet the nation's forests 
are'growing faster than 
they're being harvested. 

In 1990, logging, compa- 
nies planted some 1 .9 
billion seedlings, according 
to the' American Forest 
Council (AFC), which repre- 
sents the forest products 
industry. In recent year's, the 
volume of new growth 
has increased faster than 
that being harvested. But 
potential problems remain. 
Though growth outpac- 
es harvest nationally, the 
two run about even in the 
Pacific Northwest, and 
logging there is accelerat- 
-ic raster than in. any other 
region. Also, the timber 
industry still rails against 
legislative restrictions. 
"There are several hun- 
dred thousand acres in the 
Northwest we can't harvest 
because they are home to 
the spotted owl," protect- 
ed by the Endangered 
Species Act, the AFC's 
John Heissenbuttel says. 
"And depending on how 
wetlands are defined in 
pending legislation, we 
may lose another 60 million 
acres nationally." 

Significant amounts of 
logging in the West have 
taken place in that region's 
old-growth forests, which 
sustain a greater diversity 
of plant and animal life 

than younger trees. In 
addition, logging compa- 
nies tend to plant more 
fast-growing trees, mostly 
softwoods like pine, to 
satisfy replanting regula- 
tions; this practice reduc- 
es the volume of desirable 
hardwoods like oak. To 
help, loggers have recent- 
ly begun to pluck select 
trees from woodlands, 
which may not prove 
economical, says Gerry 
Gray of the American 
Forestry Association, a 
conservation group. 

The most potent issue, 
however, is regulation of 
private land. About 57 
percent of the country's 
forests are privately 
owned, according to the 
National Forest Service. 
State governments regu- 
late private lands, and 
their record is spotty: It's 
unclear how much replant- 
ing or management takes 
place at all. in these vast 
areas. Whe- 
ther the timber industry 
continues its relatively 
good record, Gray says, 
rest largely on how aggres- 

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those merciless humans. So easy to play even a human can do it — 
but, based on real ant biology and behavior, SimAnt has the depth of 
play and serious gaming challenge to really drive you buggy. So, before 
you step on another ant, walk an inch in my shoes. All six of them. 
SimAnt is available now at your favorite software retailer,or call MAXIS 
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SimAnt, SimCity and SimEartn are trademarks of MAXIS. ©1991, MAWI5. All rights 

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And That Spider's 
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If you agree with our grades, or care to add your own, please mail or fax this page, or a copy of it, to the 
person who can most easily put in motion the homework and longterm projects that might actually bring, 
these grades up. 

Send this page to: Or FAX it to: 

The Environmental President, George Bush The Environmental President, George Bush 

The White House (202) 456-2461 

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. 
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear Environmental President: 

We regret to inform you that your grades on environmental issues are in need of improvement. I he 
upcoming grading period— Election Year 1992— may prove crucial to your continued presence in office. 

We look forward to your improved performance on these and other environmental issues. 


A Fellow Citizen of Our Beleaguered Planet 












(See the January 1992 OMNI for explanation of grades.) 

42 OMNI 

At OMNI, we 
spend a good 
, deal of time 
looking ai science, 
technology, and 
the future, encoun- 
tering far more 
ideas, innovations, 
and insights than we 
could ever cover in 

! pages of a 
monthly magazine. 
i discussions with 
scientists and lead- 
ers of technology, 
wide reading, reflec- 
tion, and conver- 
sations among our- 

selves, we arrived at 
this month's cover 
story — a casserole, if 
you will, of items 
we feel are interest- 
ing, imaginative, and 
important. Some 
we've covered in 
OMNI before; others 
may be new to you. 
Some are old; others 
lie on the cutting 
edge of speculation. 
If you'd like to see us 
cover any of these 
items in greater 
depth, please drop 
us a line. 

ried through a tradi- 
tional copper-cable 
telephone wire. Over 
the next few decades, 
as phone companies 
replace copper wire 
with fiber-optic cable. 
they will be able to 
offer film libraries and 
interactive information 
services. Fiber-optic 
technologies are revolu- 
tionizing medicine. 
Fiber-optic instru- 
ments, for instance, 
allow physicians 
to view and treat the 
body internally with- 
out surgery. 


SCIENCE is the or- 
derly arrangement 
of knowledge about 
the universe and its 
workings, derived 
from careful observa- 
tion, recording, analy- 

i, and repeated 
testing ot conclusions. 

some scientists split 
the difference and 
say the universe is 
15 billion yearsold, j 
based on evidence 
and research as 
well as supposition. 

ASTROLOGY: is not. 
and never has been, a 

big sohke, bi© 


science put to practi- 
cal use. 

VERSE: Most 
scientists today put 
b of our uni- 
verse at 10 to 20 bil- 
lion years. However. 

than 20 years ago, 
Corning Glass Works 
introduced optical li- 
bers— glass threads, 

laller than 
a human 
hair, capa- 
ble ot carry- 
ing per- 
haps a thou- 
sand times 
the data car- 

create ultrafast com- 
puters or tiny ma- 
chines that can enter 
the body and de- ' 
liver drugs or perform 
precise surgical 


PROJECT: The mam- 
moth effort to identify 
and map the 100,000 

genes can manufac- 
ture pharmaceuticals 
in their milk. When 
bovine drug "pharms" 
are working full force, 
they'll eliminate the 
need for expensive 
drug factories. What's 
more, the genetically 
engineered cows 
will reproduce them- 
selves with each new 

nasios Theologis and 
colleagues at the 
Plant Gene Expres- 
sion Center in Albany, 
California, have built a 
top tomato: Their new 
plants, produced via 
genetic engineering, 
take more than twice 
as long to ripen as 
ordinary tomatoes. As 
a result, the tomatoes 
will stay fresh on long 
journeys across the 
country or even 
around the world. 

Japanese have a new 
rage: nanotechnolo- 
gy, where technology 
is built from molecular 
parts. Building ma- 
chines that have 
working parts the size 
of molecules, sci- 
entists will eventually 


individual genes with- 
in the 46 chromo- 
somes of the human 
body. Taking some S3 
billion and 15 years to 
complete, the govern- 
ment-sponsored pro- 
ject may prove even 
more ambitious — and 
fruitful. Knowing the 
sequence of the 3 
billion base pairs of 
the human genome 
DNA that contain our 
genetic heritage may 
one day allow re- 
searchers to diagnose 
and treat inherited 
disorders as well as 
currently incurable dis- 
eases such as cancer 
and AIDS. 

LOGY: We may soon 

be using bovine facto- 
ries to manufacture 
drugs. Researchers 
from Britain's Agricul- 
tural and Food Re- 
search Council, and a 
company called Phar- 
maceutical Proteins, 
have shown that cows 
endowed with foreign 


. What do high-speed 
^ computers and 
^Bi super-efficient pow- 
er generation have 
in common? They 
are tantalizing prod- 
ucts promised by 
' researchers working 
> develop supercon- 
ductors — materials 
that conduct electrici- 
ty with almost no 
resistance and little 
loss ot power. Until 
recently, the best 
superconductors re- 
■ quired extremely cold 
temperatures. The dis- 
covery of high-temper- 
ature, ceramic-based 
superconductors in 
1986, however, made 
the early promise of 
superconductivity a 
real possibility for 
these and many other 


CHAOS: Chaos 
challenges the deter- 
ministic notion, the 
bedrock of West- 
ern science, that 
one can predict 
future events by 
gathering enough 
information. Chaot- 
ic systems, how- 
ever, appear to 
have an underly- 
ing, unexpected, 
order; when plotted 
graphically, they 
yield elegant geo- 
metric patterns. Sci- 
entists have taken 

to the task of 
finding order in 
dynamic systems 
once believed 
to be random 


On June 20, 1991, the 
National Institutes of 
Health presented biol- 
ogist Craig Venter's 

voluminous applica- 
tion to the U.S. Patent 
Office. Venter's mis- 
sion: patenting some 
348 new human 
genes. As we usher in 
the new year, the U.S. 
Patent Office is hold- 
ing its breath, expect- 
ing a gold gene rush 
of scientists arriving to 
patent every manner 
of human gene. But 
Maynard Olson, a 
Washington University 
geneticist and mem- 
ber of the Human 
Genome Project's ad- 
visory panel, thinks 
patenting human DNA 
is a philosophically iffy 
idea. "It's like patent- 

central computer that 
will tell the weights 
how to respond in 
order to stabilize the 
building. Before such 
buildings become com- 
monplace, however, 
the world may experi- 
ence disastrous trem- 
ors — some in our own 
backyards. An earth- 
quake of magnitude 6 
on the Richter scale, 
similar to the San 
Francisco quake of 
1989, is likely to strike 
along the Midwest's 
New Madrid fault — 
site of a series of 
severe quakes in 
1811 — by the year 

the act. The giant 
pharmaceutical firm 
Merck & Company 

has decided to collab- 
orate with scientists 
from Cornell Universi- 
ty to collect samples - 
ot plant and inverte- 
brate species in the 

alternate ways of 
producing our food. 
One possible solution 
was recently suggest- 
ed by an expert panel 
ot the National Re- 
search Council. In- 
stead ot full-sized 
livestock, the panel 



ing the periodic ta- 
ble," he says. Naked 
DNA sequences be- 


"smart" technology, 
future builders will 
fashion structures able 
to shake off earth- 
quakes by incorporat- 
ing massive weights 
or braces that coun- 
teract the oscillations. 
Sensors will transmit 
information about seis- 
mic vibrations to a 

Costa Rican forest. 
The hope is that some 
of the species will be 
used to make new 
drugs. Profits from the 
drugs, in turn, will be 
poured back into a 
fund for saving the 
rain forest. 



When it comes to 
saving the rain forest, 
multinational corpora- 
tions are getting into 

humans take up more 
and more space on 
the planet, we may 
have to come up with 

suggested, we should 
turn to "microlive- 
stock" — miniature ver- 
sions of cattle, sheep, 
goats, and pigs, and 
other diminutive spe- 
cies, including the 
giant rat. "Like com- 
puters, livestock for 
use in developing 
countries should be 
getting smaller and 
becoming more 'per- 
sonal,'" the NRC 
report said. "Con- 
ventional 'mainframes' 
such as cattle are too 
large for the world's 
poorest people; they 
require too much 
space and expense." 

17 19 

SITY: Scattered 
among hundreds of 
thousands of plant 
species lies a wealth 
of genetic information. 
Many of the species 
have never even been 
identified. : much less 
studied. Most of them 
never will be. Selec- 
tive breeding practic- 
es of modern agricul- 
ture and widespread 
deforestation are kill- 
ing them off at 
breakneck speed. 
With each dies a 
library of genetic 
information, possibly 
including the clues to 
kicking cancer or 
feeding a hungry 

EFFECT: During the 
summer drought of 
1988, alarmed scien- 
tists sounded a dire 
warning: The world is 
growing dangerously 
warmer, due to the 
greenhouse effect — 


LEAD ON ICE: Green- 
land's ice serves as 
an invaluable monitor 
of lead pollution. Two 
decades ago, scien- 
tists found that lead 
concentration in Green- 
land's ice had in- 
creased about 200- 
fold since ancient 
times. The pollution 
reflected the emis- 
sions of lead-based 

part on this research, 
governmental bodies 
around the world 
began limiting the 
amount of lead added 
to fuel. It may work: In 
a recent study of 
Greenland ice, lead 
concentration had 
decreased by a factor 
of 7.5. 

Scientists are worried 
that food production 
or the earth's capacity 
to absorb waste may 
not keep up with 
demand. Moreover, 
with widespread de- 
forestation, the need 
for firewood, the Third 
World's principal fuel, 
will increasingly ex- 
ceed sustainable 
yields. Other forces 
may serve to curb the 
population crisis: Sci- 
ence may develop 
ways to accelerate 
food production, and 
disease, already wreak- 
ing havoc in the Third 
World, is sure to 
devastate pockets of 
the earth's people. 

the process by which 
carbon dioxide and 
other gases from 
power plants and 
automobiles absorb 
the sun's infrared 
rays, much like the 
walls of a greenhouse. 
The experts cautioned 
that rising tempera- 
tures from the buildup 
of fossil-fuel gases 
would in time flood 
coastal areas and turn 
cropland to waste- 
land. A worldwide 
debate, however, is 
also warming up. 
Other scientists have 
characterized the tem- 
perature increase as a 
typical climate shift. 



world presently sup- 
ports more than 5 
billion people. Be- 
cause population 
growth is exponential, 
a staggering 10 
billion people will 
share the planet's 
diminishing resources 
by the year 2025. 


Stratospheric ozone 
levels over Antarctica 
have reached the 
lowest levels ever 
recorded, according 
to recent satellite 
reports. In other 
words, that ozone 
hole is now immense. 
Watch out for an 
increase in skin can- 
cer worldwide. 




The moon has earth- 
quakes—or, more ac- 
curately, moonquakes. 
Most of these very 
weak quakes are 
caused by tidal forces 
resulting from in- 
creases in the Earth's 
gravity as the moon 
moves closer to the 
Earth during part of its' 
orbit. Others most 
likely occur when 

beach is not miniscule 
shavings of rock, as 
you might think. In- 
stead, it's the skele- 
tons of ancient plants 
and animals. Some of 
those organisms used 
calcium, either as part 
of their own skeletons 
or as a shelter. Others 
were literally made of 
glass and absorbed 
silica, the main ingre- 
dient in glass, from 
sea water and ocean- 
floor clay. Over the 
years, water and other 
organisms ground 
these plants and 

In 1972, British scien- 
tist James Lovelock 
had a vision: The 
earth was a giant 
living organism whose 
bodily functions were 
the atmosphere, the 
seas, life itself. Calling 
his theory Gaia ('guy- 
ah') for the mother 
Earth goddess, Love- 
lock proposed that 
environment and life 
are two parts of a 
single system which 
interact in a self- 
regulating and self- 
correcting way. Critics 
say Gaia can't be 
proven and therefore 
is more akin to 
philosophy or religion, 
not science. 


caused by lightning; 
the two are insepara- 
ble. A lightning bolt 
heats the air around it 
to 50.000T, and this 
hot air does what 
every hot thing does — 
it expands. This 
incredibly fast expan- 
sion produces- a 
sound akin to a sonic 

molten or partly mol- 
ten rock below the 
moon's surface shifts. 
Moonquakes last long- 
er than earthquakes— 
the landing of the 
Apollo 12 lunar mod- 
ule set the moon 
vibrating for more than 
two hours. 


That soft, white sand 
you curl your toes in 
when you go to the 

animals down into the 
granules of sand that 
form our beaches. By 
the way, the grayish 
sand usually found 
elsewhere, like in your 
backyard, did indeed 
come from the erosion 
of rocks. 


tors now know that the 
time-honored advice 
for treating a snake 
bite— making an inci- 

sion at the bite and 
sucking out the ven- 
om — doesn't really 
work and may do 
more harm than good. 
The incision is prone 
to infection, and the 
suction method has 
been found to remove 
at best just 18 percent 
of the venom. Also, 
doctors recommend 
trying to slow the 
circulation of blood 
with something like an 
Ace bandage rather 
than trying to stop it 
with ice or a tourni- 
quet; the bitten area 
badly needs blood to 
reduce potential tis- 
sue damage, And if 
the snake attacked in 
self-defense, the bite 

victim is better off than 
if it was looking for 
food; it injects more 
venom into its prey to 
paralyze or kill it 



ICE is denser than 
room-temperature wa- 
ter, and heat rises. 
Sunlight should heat 
the surface of 
water faster than 
water at the bottom. 
So why doesn't ice 
form on the bottom, 
instead of the top of 
bodies of water? It 
turns out that water 
reaches its greatest 
density before it freez- 
es—at 39.2° F heit. 
It then expands as it 
freezes, so the water 
between 39.2' and 
32° (the freezing 
point) is less dense 
and thus rises to the 
surface. As water at 
the freezing point 
turns into ice, the 
various crystals bond 

Hail to Thee, O Isaac 

How to pick the 
best put of Asimov's 
science books? 
Not easy. But those 
of us who have read 
and loved Isaac's 
work have learned 
from, him that the 
easy way is rarefy 
the right or the best 

" Here's. my pick of 
the 10 best of Isaac 
Asimov's science 
books.— Keith Ferrell 

Asimov's New 
Guide To Science— 
Every home, needs 

one. Asimov's Bio- 
graphical Encyclo- 
pedia Of Science & 
Technology— -The 
women and men 
behind the history. - 
Asimov's Chronology 
Of Science & Dis- 
covery— -Who did 
what, and when. The, 
Human Body— How 
we work. The Human 
Brain — How we 
think. Understanding 
Physics— Hard sci- 
ence made simple. 
Realm Of Numbers— 
Trouble with arithme- 
tic? Read this. Es- 
says — Anyoi Isaac's 
collections of suc- 
cint articles and 
essays. Our Angry 
Plane!— -Written with 
Frederik Pohl, this is; 
an eloquent exami- 
nation of the dam- 
age we're doing to 
our world. Atom— A 
new book and a 

together and expand, 
remaining on the 
surface because of 
their lower density. 


SALT in the oceans 
comes from several 
sources: minerals 
from eroded rocks 
that are carried into 
the ocean by rivers, 
volcanic rock, and 
basalt that erupts up 
from below the 
ocean floor. The con- 
centration of salt 
has remained stable 
at about 3.5 percent 
for about 1.5 billion 



square mile of sunlight 
weighs about three 
pounds. Sunlight has 
weight because it 
exerts pressure on 
anything it encoun- 
ters. If all the sunlight 
reaching Earth could 
be weighed, it would 
tip the scales at more 
than 87,000 tons. 



MOTION: Like the plan- 
ets, our galaxy, 
the Milky Way, re- 
volves. The galaxy 

takes its time to 
revolve: 230 million 
years, known as one 
galactic year. The 
Milky Way has only 
been around for about 
52 galactic years, 
or 12 billion years. Our 
sun. the earth, and 
the other planets trek 
over a million 
trillion miles each 
galactic year. 

shay matters 

cortex is 10 times as 
great as a monkey's; 
1000 limes as great as 



typical neuron, a 
pyramidal cell, has up 
to 100,000 specific 
connections to other 
cells. "The pyramidal 
cell is the acme of 
biochemical evolu- 
tion." — Dominick Pur- 
pura, Dean, Albert 
Einstein College of 
Medicine, New York. 


There are 125 million 
rods and cones in the 
retina whose impulses 
follow the pathway to 
the primary visual 
cortex, the size of a 
postage stamp. In 
monkeys, the primary 
visual cortex is 15 
percent of the whole 


are 200 billion neu- 
rons in the brain; 10 to 
50 times that many 
glial, nutritional, and 
"support" cells; mil- 
lions of trillions of 
connections between 
these ceils. 


The surface area of 
the human cerebral 

surface of the cortex; 
in humans, 3 percent, 
meaning humans 
have five times as 
much higher process- 
ing of initial visual 


1 million genes are 
necessary to encode 
for the growth, devel- 
opment, and function 
of the brain through- 
out life. 






Mrs. Jerry Debree, the heroine 
of Grong Crossing, liked to 
look pretty. It was important to 
Jerry in his business contacts, 
of course, and also it made 
her feel more confident and 
kind of happy to know that her 
cellophane was recent and 
her eyelashes really well 
glued on and that the high- 
lighter blush was bringing out 
her cheekbones like the girl at 
the counter had said. But it 
was beginning to be hard to 
feel fresh and look pretty as 
this desert kept getting hotter 
and hotter and redder and red- 
der until ft looked, really, al- 
most like what she had always 
thought the Bad Place would 
look like, only not so many 
people. In fact, none. 

"Could we have passed it, 
do you think?" she ventured 
at fast, and received without 
surprise the exasperation 
she had safety-valved from 
him: "How the fuck could we 
have passed it when we ha- 
ven't passed one fucking 
thing except those fucking 
bushes for 90 miles? Christ 
you're dumb." 

Jerry's language was a 
pity. And sometimes it made 
it so hard to talk to him. She 
had had the least little tiny 
sort of feeling, woman's intui- 
tion maybe, that the men who 
had told him how to get to 
Grong Crossing were teasing 
him, having a little joke, He 
had been talking so loud in 
the hotel bar about how dis- 
appointed he had been with 
the Corroboree after flying all 
the way out from Adelaide to 
see it. He kept comparing it to 
the Indian dance they had 
seen at Taos. Actually he had 
been very bored and rest- 
less at Taos and they had had 
to leave in the middle so he 














could have a drink and she 
never had gotten to see the 
people with the masks come, 
but now he talked about how 
they really knew how to put 
on a native show in the USA. 
He said a few scruffy abos 
jumping around weren't go- 
ing to give tourists from the re- 
al world anything to write 
home about. The Aussies 
ought to visit Disney World 
and find out how to do the re- 
al thing, he said. 

She agreed with that; she 
loved Disney World. It was the 
only thing in Florida, where 
they had to live now that Jerry 
was an ACEO, that she liked 
much, One of the Australian 
men at the bar had seen Dis- 
neyland and agreed that it 
was amazing, or maybe he 
meant amusing; what he said 
was "amizing." He seemed to 
be a nice man. Bruce, he 
said his name was, and his 
friend's name was Bruce, too. 
"Common sort of name 
here," he said, only he said 
"nime," but he meant name, 
she was quite sure. When Jer- 
ry went on complaining about 
the Corroboree, the first 
Bruce said, "Well, mite, you 
might go out to Grong Cross- 
ing, if you really want to see 
the real thing— right, Bruce?" 
At first the other Bruce 
didn't seem to know what he 
meant, and that was when her 
woman's intuition woke up. 
But pretty soon both Bruces 
were talking away about this 
place, Grong Crossing, way 
out in "the bush," where they 
were certain to meet real abos 
really living in the desert. 
"Near Alice Springs," Jerry 
said knowledgeably, but it 
wasn't, they said; it was still far- 
ther west from here. They 
gave directions so precisely 

that it was clear they knew 
what they were talking about, 
"Few hours' drive, that's all," 
Bruce said. "But y'see, most 
tourists want to stay on the 
beaten path. This is a bit 
more on the inside track." 

"Bang-up shows," said 
Bruce. "Nightly Corroborees." 
"Hotel any better than this 
dump?" Jerry asked, and 
they laughed. No hotel, they 
explained, "It's like a safari, 
see— tents under the stars. 
Never rains," said Bruce. 

"Marvelous food, though," 
Bruce said. "Fresh kangaroo 
steaks. Kangaroo hunts daily, 
see. Witchetty grubs along 
with the drinks before dinner. 
Roughing it in luxury, I'd call 
it; right, Bruce?" 

"Absolutely," said Bruce. 
"Friendly, are they, these 
abos?" Jerry asked. 

"Oh, salt of the earth. 
Treat you like kings. Think 
white men are sort of gods, 
y'know," Bruce said. Jerry 

So Jerry wrote down all the 
directions, and here they 
were driving and driving in the 
old station wagon that was all 
there was to rent in the small 
town they'd been at for the 
Corroboree, and by now you 
only knew the road was a 
road because it was perfectly 
straight forever. Jerry had 
been in a good humor at first. 
"This'll be something to 
shove up that bastard Thiol's 
ass," he said. His friend Thiel 
was always going to places 
like Tibet and having wonder- 
ful adventures and showing 
videos of himself with yaks. 
Jerry had bought a very ex- 
pensive camcorder for this 
trip, and now he said, "Going 
to shoot me some abos. 
Show that fucking Thiel and 



his musk-oxes!" But as the 
morning went on and the 
road went on and the desert 
went on— did they call it "the 
bush" because there was one 
little thorny bush once a mile 
or so?— he got hotter and hot- 
ter and redder and redder, 
just like the desert. And she 
began to feel depressed and 
like her mascara was caking. 

She was wondering if after 
another 40 miles (four was her 
lucky number) she could say, 
"Maybe we ought to turn 
back?" for the first time, when 
he said, "There!" 

There was something 
ahead, all right. 

"There hasn't been any 
sign," she said, dubious. 
"They didn't say anything 
about a hill, did they?" 

"Hell, that's no hill, that's a 
rock— what do they call it- 
some big fucking red rock—" 

"Ayers Rock?" She had 
read the welcome to down 
under tlyer in the hotel in Ade- 
laide while Jerry was at the 
plastics conference. "But 
that's in themiddle of Austra- 
lia, Isn't it?" 

"So where the fuck do you 
think we are? In the middle of 
Australia, what do you think 
this is, fucking East Germa- 
ny?" He was shouting, and 
he speeded up. The terribly 
straight road shot them 
straight at the hill, or rock, or 
whatever it was. It wasn't 
Ayers Rock, she knew that, 
but there wasn't any use ir- 
ritating Jerry, especially 
when he started shouting. 

It was reddish, and 
shaped kind of like a huge VW 
bug, only lumpier; and there 
were certainly people all 
around it.and at first she was 
very glad to see them. Their 
utter isolation — they hadn't 
seen another car or farm or 
anything for two hours — had 
scared her. Then as they got 
closer she thought the people 






looked rather funny. Funnier 
than the ones at the Corrob- 
oree even. "1 guess they're 
natives," she said aloud. 

"What the shit did you ex- 
pect, Frenchmen?" Jerry 
said, but he said it like a joke, 
and she laughed. But — "Oh! 
goodness!" she said involun- 
tarily, getting her first clear 
sight of one of the natives. 

"Big fellows, huh," he said. 
"Bushmen, they call 'em." 

That didn't seem right, 
but she was still getting over 
the shock of seeing that tall, 
thin, black-and-white, weird 
person. It had been just stand- 
ing looking at the car, 'only 
she couldn't see its eyes. 
Heavy brows and thick, hairy 
eyebrows hid them. Black, 
ropey hair hung over half its 
face and stuck out from be- 
hind its ears. 

"Are they — are they paint- 
ed?" she asked, weakly. 

"They always paint 'em- 
selves up like that.": His con- 
tempt for her ignorance was 

"They almost don't look 
human," she said, very softly 
so as to not hurt their feelings, 
if they spoke English, since 
Jerry had stopped the car 
and flung the doors open and 
was rummaging out the video 
"Hold. this!" 

She held it. Five or six of the 
tail black-and-white people 
had sort of turned their way 
but they all seemed to be 
busy with something at the 
foot of the hill or rock or what- 
ever it was. There were some 
things that might be tents. No- 
body came to welcome them 
or anything, but she was ac- 
iuallyjust as glad they didn't. 
"Hold this! Oh for Chris- 
sake, what did you do with 
the— all right, just give it 

"Jerry, I wonder if we 

should ask them," she said. 

"Ask who what?" he 

growled, having trouble with 

the cassette thing. 

"The people here — if it's all 
right to photograph. Remem- 
ber at Taos they said that 
when the — " 

"For fuck sake, you don't 
need fucking permission to 
photograph a bunch of na- 
tives^. God! Did you ever took 
at the tucking National Geo- 
graphic? Shit! Permission*." 

It really wasn't any use 
when he started shouting. 
And the people didn't seem to 
be interested in what he was 
doing. Although it was quite 
hard to be sure what direction 
they were actually looking. 

"Aren't you going to get out 
of the fucking carl" 
"It's so hot," she said. 
He didn't really mind it 
when she was afraid of get- 
ting too hot or sunburned or 
anything, because he liked be- 
ing stronger and tougher. She 
probably could even have 
said that she was afraid of the 
natives, because he liked to 

be braver than her, too; but 
sometimes he got angry 
when she was afraid, like the 
time he made her eat that 
poisonous fish, or a fish that 
might or might not be poison- 
ous, in Japan, because she 
said she was afraid to, and 
she threw up and embar- 
rassed everybody. So she 
just sat in the car and kept the 
engine on and the air condi- 
tioning on, although the win- 
dow on her side was open. 

Jerry had his camera up 
on-his shoulder now and was 
panning the scene — the far- 
away hot red horizon, the 
queer rock-hill-thing with 
shiny places in it like glass, 
the black, burned-looking 
ground around it, and the peo- 
ple swarming all over. There 
wece 40 or 50 of them at 
least. It only dawned on her 
now that if they were wearing 
any clothes at all she didn't 
know what was clothes and 
what was skin, because they 
were so strange-shaped, and 
painted or colored all in 
stripes and spots of white on 
black, not like zebras but 
more, complicated, more like 
skeleton suits but not exactly. 
And they must be eight feet 
tall, but their arms were short, 
almost like kangaroos'. And 
their hair was like black ropes 
standing up all over their 
heads. It was embarrassing 
to look at people without 
clothes on, but you couldn't 
really see anything like that. 
In fact, she couldn't tell, 
actually, if they were men or 

They were all busy with 
their work or ceremony or what- 
ever it was. Some of them 
were handling some things 
like big, thin, golden leaves, 
others were doing something 
with cords or wires. They 
didn't seem to be talking, but 
there was, all the time, in the 
air a soft, drumming, droning, 







rising and falling, deep 
sound, like cats purring or 

voices- far away. 

Jerry started walking to- 
ward them. 

"Be careful," she said faint- 
ly. He paid no attention, of 

They paid no attention to 
him either, as far as she 
could see, and he kept film- 
ing, swinging the camera 
around. When he got right up 
close to a couple of them, 
they turned toward him. She 
couldn't see their eyes at all, 
but what happened was 
their hair sort of stood .up and 
bent toward Jerry — each 
thick, black rope about' a 
foot long, moving around 
and bending down exactly 
as if it were peering at him. 
At that, her own hair tried to 
stand up, and ihe blast of the 
air conditioner ran like ice 
down her sweaty arms. She 
got out of the car- and. called 
his name. 

He kept filming. 

She went toward him as 
fast as she could on the cin- 
dery, stony soil in her' high- 
heeled sandals. "Jerry, come 
back. I think — " 

"Shut up!" he yelled so 
savagely that she stopped 
short for a moment. But she 
could see the hair better now, 
and she could see that it did 
have eyes, and mouths, too, 
with little, red tongues dart- 
ing out. 

"Jerry, come, back," she 
said. "They're not natives, 
they're Space Aliens. That's 
their saucer." She knew 
from the Sun that there had 
been sightings down herein 

"Shut the fuck up," he 
said. "Hey, big' fella, give 
me a little action, huh? Don't 
just stand there. Dancee- 
dancee, OK?" His eye was 
glued to the camera, 

"Jerry," she said; her 

54 OMNI 






voice sticking in her throat, 
as one of the Space Aliens 
pointed with its little weak- 
looking arm and hand at 
the car. Jerry shoved the cam- 
era right up close to Its- 
head, and at that it put its- 
hand over the lens. That 
made Jerry mad, of course, 
and he yelled, "Get the fuck 
off that!" And he actual- 
ly looked at the Space Ali- 
en, not through the camera 
but face to face. "Oh gee," 
he said. 

And his hand went to his 
hip. He always carried a gun, 
because it was an Ameri- 
can's right to bear arms. and 
there were so many drug ad- 
dicts these days. He had 
smuggled it through the air- 
port inspection the way he 
knew how. Nobody was go- 
ing to disarm him. 

She saw perfectly clearly 
what happened. The Space 
Alien opened its eyes. 

There were eyes under the 
dark, shaggy brow's; they 
had been kept closed till 

now. Now they were open, 
and looked once straight at 
Jerry, and he turned to 
stone. He just stood there, 
one hand on the camera and 
one reaching for his gun, 

Several more Space Ali- 
ens had gathered round. 
They all had their eyes shut, 
except for the ones at the 
ends- of their hair. Those glit- 
tered and shone, and the lit- 
tle red tongues flickered in 
and -out, and the humming,. 
droning sound was much 
louder. Many of the hair- 
snakes writhed to look at her. 
Her knees buckled and her 
heart thudded- in her throat, 
but she had to get to Jerry 
She passed right between 
two huge Space Aliens and. 
reached him and patted 
him — "Jerry, wake up!" she 
■said. He was just like stone, 
paralyzed. "Oh," she said, 
and- tears ran down her 
face, "oh, what should I. do, 
what can I do?" She looked 
.around in despair at the tall, 
thin, black-and-white faces 
looming above her, white 
teeth showing, eyes tight 
shut, hairs staring and stirring 
and murmuring. The murmur 
was soft, almost like music, 
not angry, soothing. She 
watched two tall Space Ali- 
ens pick up Jerry quite gent- 
ly, as if he were a tiny little 
boy — a stiff one— and carry 
him carefully to the car. 

They poked him into the 
bacK seat lengthwise, but he 
didn't fit. She ran to help. She 
let down the back seat so 
there was room forhim in the 
back. The Space Aliens ar- 
ranged him and tucked the 
video camera in beside him, 
then straightened -up* their 
hairs looking down at her 
with little twinkly eyes. They 
hummed softly, and pointed 
with their childish arms back 
down the road. 

"Yes," she said. "Thank 
you. Good-bye!" 
They hummed. 

She got in and closed the 
window and turned the car 
around there on a wide 
place in the road — and 

there was a signpost, Grong 
Crossing, although she 
didn't see any crossroad. 

She drove back, carefully 
at first because she was 
shaky, then faster and fast- 
er because she should get 
Jerry to the .doctor, of 
course, but also because 
she loved driving on long 
straight roads very fast like 
this. Jerry never let her drive 
except in town. 

The paralysis was total and 
permanent, which would 
have been terrible, except 
that she could afford full- 
time", round-the-clock, first- 
class care for poor Jerry, be- 
cause of the really good 
deals she made with the TV 
people and then with the 
rights people for the video. 
First it was shown all over the 
world as Space Aliens Land 
in Australian Outback, but 
then it became part of real sci- 
ence- and history as Grong 
Crossing, South Australia: The 
First Contact With the Gorgo- 
nids. In the voice-over they 
told how it was her, Annie 
Laurie Debree, who had 
been the first human to talk 
with our friends from outer 
space, even before they sent 
the ambassadors to Canberra 
and Reykjavik. There was 
only one good shot of her in 
the film, and Jerry had been 
sort of shaking, and her high- 
lighter was kind of streaked, 
but that was all right. She 
was the heroine. DO 

Ursula K. Le Gain's most recent 
book is Searoad (HarperCollins, 
1991). Her 1990 novel, Tehanu, 
won the Nebuia Award, and she 
has also won the Hugo and the 
National Book Awards. 


Hard wired: 
Williamson applies 
solid- state 
physics Jo examine 
the brain at 'work. 

The huge padded door opens. Beneath subdued lights, a 
man lies prone, his head held stationary by a vacuum pillow 
used to immobilize broken bones. He stares up at a large, 
fiberglass, cylindrical probe, which with intinitessimal slow- 
ness, descends toward his forehead and stops within a millime- 
ter from his skin. A radio-frequency transmitter on the probe 
communiates with two electronic cubes secured by a vel- 
cro sweatband on bis forehead, marking the probe's target 
inside his skull. Racks of electronic machines surround him. 
A wiry, energetic professor with an impish sense of humor, 
adjusts a dial, and with a glance, motions me to follow him 
out. The door whooshes shut. 

I am not in an operating room of the twenty-second cen- 
tury, but on the ninth floor of Mew York University's Physics 
Building, in a lab where solid-state physics and the "wet" 
world of neuroscience interpenetrate. Instead of microscopes 
focused on thin slices of brain tissue, the rooms are crowd- 
ed with electronic scanners, oscillators, and computers. One 
of the more impressive machines has stenciled on it NEU- 
ROMAGNETOMETER. The mouthful of a title describes pur 
planet's most sensitive detector of magnetic fields, capable 
of measuring the magnetic fields emanating from a human 
brain, only one billionth of Earth's geomagnetic field. 

This particular machine is registering the brain of gradu- 
ate student Zhong-Lin Lu, and it is doing so to create a to- 
pographical map of his thoughts. 

"It's amazing how little we know about our brains," says 
the lab's director, Samuel Williamson, the neuroscientist who, 
with his psychologist partner, Lloyd Kaufman, is a leading 
pioneer of this strange new cartography. Formerly a solid- 

state physicist more interested in superconductive phenom- 
ena, Williamson was led to brain mapping through his fasci- 
nation with the SQUID. "Not calamari," he says, "super- 
conducting quantum interference device. S-Q-U-l-D." 

SQUIDs take advantage of a subtle quantum effect. At 
extremely low temperatures where electrons couple togeth- 
er, they form waves. These waves can be thrown out of 
sync by the weakest magnetic fields. SQUID sensors meas- 
ure these fluctuations. 

"So what does this have to do with the brain?" Williamson 
asks rhetorically, I nod, but he's not about to tell me yet. 
First he wants to talk about how SQUIDs work. "This fancy 
container over Lu's head is nothing but a Thermos bottle. It 
relies on the same vacuum insulation as your Thermos; we 
just have a heck of a better vacuum." 

At the bottom of the probe, are five coils wound of su- 
perconducting niobium wire bathed in liquid helium at four 
degrees Kelvin (about -450A F). Each coil has a SQUID sen- 
sor attached to it. When a magnetic field appears, it gener- 
ates a current in the coil's superconducting circuit. A 
SQUID, sensing the fields flowing in the coil, converts it to 
a voltage. "The fancy electronics outside monitor the 
SQUID'S responses and provide signals that mimic the mag- 
netic field of the brain. By monitoring the rhythms of Alpha 
waves, we can get a real-time photo of where certain 
thoughts are going on in Lu's mind." 

Alpha waves? The mysterious biofeedback stuff that was 
the rage of the sixties? "The same wave," Williamson ad- 
mits. Alpha waves are not exotica or part of an ersatz sci- 
ence, but real and rhythmic in a bandwidth of 8 to 13 cy- 


An array of 
SQUiBs Is slowly 
being lowered 
to within a millimeter 
of subject's skin. 

Magnetic field maps 
reveal not only 
the mind's eye, but 
the mind's ear 
and the mind's voice. 

cles per second. They are measurable and originate in many 
parts of our brain when we're alert yet relaxed— thus the med- 
itation link. Some call it the "idling wave," but the Alpha's 
actual purpose, says Williamson, has yet to be explained. 

It's not Alpha waves per se that interest the NYU neuros- 
cientist. With the SQUID he's able to monitor tiny, specific 
areas where the Alpha rhythm briefly stops. The power 
goes off, so to speak. This occurs, for example, when you 
use your brain to access a memory. It stops, too, when you 
make a comparison between one image and another. But it 
stops in a different area of the brain. The various patterns of 
"Alpha suppression," in fact, may be the patterns of 
thought in action. 

Although there is no standard for Alpha-wave rhythm (in 
some folks it's stronger than in others), the sources of each 
individual's rhythms can be located. The array of SQUID sen- 
sors is placed over a predetermined brain area. With care, 
it's possible to the locate a center of activity with an accura- 
cy of three millimeters. 

With the neuromagnetometer, Williamson tests a brain func- 
tion — recognizing a face — and notes if, when, and to what 
degree the spontaneous Alpha waves briefly stop. 

A test is occurring right now. In that eerie "noise- proof" 
room (noise-proof meaning magnetic-proof; the walls are 
lined with mu-metal, a nickle-bearing substance that literal- 
ly attracts magnetic fields and guides them around the cham- 
ber), Lu lies beneath the probe. From the other room, Wil- 
liamson whispers to him via an intercom. "Imagine a boat," 
he commands. Beside me, Williamson points to a computer 
screen where the squiggles have abruptly stopped. "The sen- 


sors are isolating an area in Lu's brain where there's a sup- 
pression of Alpha waves; Lu is seeking the image of a 
boat." The area isolated is the primary visual cortex, the re- 
gion in the back of the head where everything we see from 
the outside world has its basic processing. 

The point, according to Williamson, is not what Lu imag- 
ined, or even that the Alpha was suppressed for a second 
as Lu's association occurred. What's important is the 
strength of the suppression and especially where it occurred. 
This demonstrates thai primary visual areas are involved 
with mental imaging, the visions inside our heads. "When 
we generate images, mentally compare an image with oth- 
ers previously seen, or even respond to a word shown on a 
screen by finding an image for the object the word repre- 
sents," he says, "it looks like we use the primary visual area 
and also an area very close to it. Which means that where 
the brain responded to the visual image of the word boat 
and where it 'saw' the image of a boat are next-door neigh- 
bors. "Which means," Williamson says, "that visual brain ar- 
eas take part in forming what we call the mind's eye, a 
place where visual associations occur." 

The mind's eye. And not just that, but the mind's ear and 
the mind's voice. 

Do we also remember music and invent sounds in the 
same place where they were originally recognized? Do 
those sweet unheard melodies, as John Keats once said, 
occur in the same auditory cortex as the heard melodies? 
"Of course," Professor Williamson continues, "we don't 
know how a composer uses previously heard sounds to cre- 
ate a new melody. 


W beginning stages of this work, 
which is why we need a map, so we 
can find our way back when we've 
increased our skills." Williamson and 
Kaufman's mapping has confirmed 
that there is a tonal map in the 
"hearing brain" that mirrors musical 
scale. The NYU team showed that a 
group of nerve cells in a tiny area 
of the temporal lobe reacts to a C note, another group to a 
C sharp, and so on, up the scale like the ivories on a key- 
board. A topographical map. 

"As we map the mind," Williamson says, "we discover how 
highly organized and very efficient it is. Everything seems 
to have its logical juxtaposition." Ever more frequently, the 
.brain is being compared to a supercomputer, although with 
its trillions of interconnections and distributed networks a 
brain is far more sophisticated than the most advanced par- 
allel processor. Yet metaphors abound of tiny, individual, wet 
computers linked and working simultaneously to' solve im- 
mensely complicated tasks— functions within functions. "We 
have known about the brain's so-called supercomputer but 
not how it works, where all the tiny components are, how 
the tasks are broken down," he admits. 

Williamson provides an example of mental multitasking. 
"Suppose we're alone in the jungle and see a tiger. Part of 
our visual system sees stripes, another sees movement, 
approximately at the same instant. With magnetic field meas- 
urements, we can determine their interplay and which part 
dominates." {Williamson thinks it's the stripes part that dom- 
inates unless the tiger is jumping at you, then a motion de- 
tection system kicks in first.) "From there we hope to find 
where the tiger memory is stored ('What is a tiger?'} and, 
finally, how to react ('run like crazy'). 

"In short," Williamson says, "we are beginning to learn 
what's happening during this complicated series of tasks. 
It's truly brand new stuff." Practically brand-new stuff. Mag- 
netic imaging's first studies of the brain's response to visual 
display were done at NYU in 1972 by Williamson and Lloyd 
Kaufman and their "long-suffering" grad student, Douglas 
Brenner. In 1975 their first paper appeared. Much trial and 
error were needed to sort out irrevelant noise, the bane of 
the machine. "You want to know what real noise is? The BfvlT 
line 12 stories below the lab. We did the early work without 
any noise shielding at all. That's trial and error!' 

But from its murky beginnings, the n euro magneto meter has 
been improved by a factor of more than 10. From simply cor- 
roborating the easiest neural tasks, the Williamson/ 
Kaufman team is now on the frontier of major mapping dis- 
coveries. Thanks to Williamson and Kaufman's early work, 
there are now 50 groups around the world doing biomag- 
netic studies. 

What's holding back progress? Mostly it's money. William- 
son's SQUID uses an array of just five sensors, which is sort 

Caught in the act: 
Magnetic field's fluctuating 
from left to right. The 
direction will then reverse, 
and this cycle wiil 
fee repeated— about 1 2 
times a second. 

of like measuring a whale with your thumbnail. To construct 
a topographical field map of a cortical region, you have to 
measure at 30 to 70 locations. Next years's funding should 
bring a system of 37 sensors. A group at the Low Tempera- 
ture Laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology is 
building a machine with 122 SQUIDs sampling the whole 
head. A consortium of Japanese corporations in collaboration 
with MITI (Ministry of international Trade and Industry) are 
about to unveil one with 200 SQUIDS. 

"That many sensors and the software to coordinate them 
will move us to the next step," Williamson says. "A system 
that can monitor the field anywhere about the head." 

What will we do with the new mind atlas? "Well, use the 
part of your mind that imagines," says Williamson. "There 
are many exciting applications, many in preventive medicine. 
Ultimately, we hope it may help to distinguish between 
psychiatric disorders. One area where it probably won't be 
used is the operating room. "Too much noise . . . electrical 
devices," he says, "though surgeons will refer to its data dur- 
ing surgery." Won't that be the same as referring to CAT 
scans? "The neuromagnetometer sees what CAT scans can't. 
It provides a functional image, not an anatomical one— and 
it's noninvasive, its also complementary to PET, but has a 
more rapid time response. You follow changes quickly." 

One application which Williamson has suggested is the 
annual brain check. "Every six months you go see your den- 
tist. Why not a brain checkup, too? If we know what your 
normal brain looks like magnetic-fieldwise, we can compare. 
Deviations can be noted, problems nipped in the bud." At 
present, though, there is that nagging lack-of-database prob- 
lem. Not enough brains have been "SQUIDed." But with a 
large enough array of sensors and the lower cost that mass 
production might bring, one day we might simply sit under 
this hairdryer-looking device and in a matter of minutes get 
a complete picture of our mind live and kicking in real time. 
At the Henry Ford Clinic in Detroit and elsewhere, neu- 
roscientists are using neuromagnetometers to study the 
causes of migraines and epilepsy. The data is already avail- 
able to perform rudimentary hearing tests on infants. Early 
detection for tumors, Alzheimer's disease, and many other 
brain problems are realistic prospects. "And of course,as 
the brain records what's going on in the rest of the body.it 
could provide helpful signals." 

And more esoteric testing? Determining genius, for exam- 
ple? "Why not?" Williamson replies. "We have no clue at the 
moment of what to look for, but that doesn't mean it couldn't 
be done. Such things are eventually solvable and doable." 
What about studying unusal powers of thought and creativ- 
ity? Peering at the playwright John Guare's brain 7 The 
thought processing of computer maven William Gates? A 
test to determine a child's potential? And while we're at it, 
a means to expand and widen the highways of our own imag- 
inations by means of, say, a biomagneticfeedback machine? 
"Why not?" Williamson says again. If we can understand the 
organ that understands, anything's possible." And if you 
have a good map, you can go just about anywhere. DO 

One of these prizes could be yours if you can follow the clues in 


Reading OMNI is always rewarding, 
but especially so next month. The Feb- 
ruary issue features our eighth an- 
nual Great OMNI Treasure Hunt, 
where a little bit of detective work can 
pay off in fabulous prizes! 

Here's a sneak preview of a few 
of the prizes. Just imagine the fun 

62 OMNI 

you could have if you won our 
GRAND PRIZE, a 1992 GEO Track- 
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And that's only the beginning. 

So be sure to see the February is- 
sue of OMNI for official rules, elues, 
and a look at the rest of the prizes. 
Don't miss it] 

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Got the Syiovan, the 
~'"rs? The Thumper, 
;h Elm chip for the 
I. We might make it by there today." 
ht, mournful June day. Tt 
id hard. The i 

stling leaves, 
<ith big hous- 
all "neri and 



■ but yellow-green, 
in the sub. We put 

of the line. 
" ;. Barber \ 

IV, and now this looked like the i 

iding at the door looking 
1 ~ J h the drive just as 


le quick Dipro fix 
ny little leaves c 

gives a green flush to the 

hem sigh with relief 
eet. But unless the 
rem the IV grid fou 
hing would be a was 

through the soles of my 
Batura-solution coming up 
d living roots, the whole 


ooked grave <. 

s he put the sprayer back 


truck. "If it's 
call me," he 

ot looking better by Wed- 
said to the Barbers. "You 



this — going to cost?" Mr. 
o his wife and the neigl 
ouldn't hear. Carl gave him a mot 
ng look, and Mr. Barber turned away, 

iderstand where he's coming fro 
I told me when we were back on t 

' lught a 

fly with 

days nobody is insured. 



— " said as he got out nf 
id looked at his yellowini 
dred thousand dollars ($104,668.29 to be pr„„ 
I sometimes watched Carl do the books). "It's 
too late, is it, Carl?" 

te, Mr. Barber," Carl 


; Princeton by^j 
it's the only place that'll alio 
girl with i 

d yellow. A darker 
u the yard, like paper 
. ._ ....o flame. 
"Code Six, Gail," Carl said, revising his 

original assessment. "Giv 

five liters of straight Biulo 
speed inject. And 


i. f spilled in a four-can of Bi, added 
some Phishphlakes for good me 

' the underpumps whining on Super. Out 
ed up and down the lawn 
lytaline sprayer, while the 


hand covered the top of m> 
head. "Just as I thought," h 
said. "Cold as ic _ rt - 
find something l... „ 
can eat, Gay?" 

al home on Route 303. The d 


was one of those cheap, sixteen-bit 
jobs that you can't walk through, that on- 
ly look right from a hundred yards or so. 
Carl had sold it to them last fall. It was 
supposedly upgradable, but in fact the 
company that made it had gone out of 
business over the winter, and now the 
chip was an orphan; you couldn't 
change the variety or even the colors 
of the flowers without a whole new CPU. 
Carl explained this hesitantly, expect- 
ing an argument, but the funeral home 
manager signed for the new chip, a Hall- 
mark clone, in a minute. "It's one of 
these franchise operations, Gail," Carl 
said on the way back to the "shop. 
"They don't care what they spend. 
Hell, why should they? It's all tax-deduct- 
ible under the Environmental Upgrade 
Act. I never liked flowers much anyway. 
Even organic ones." 

Tuesday was a better day because we 

got to dig. We put in ten meters ot Pat- 
agonian Civet Hedge at Johnson, John- 
son & Johnson. Pat is not really Patag- 
onian; the name is supposed to sug- 
gest some kind of hardy stock. It's 
actually cyberhedge, a fert-satu rated 
plastate lattice with dri-gro bud lodg- 
ments at twenty-millimeter intervals on 
a 3-D grid. But the tiny leaves that 
grow out of it are as real as I am. They 

bask in the sun and wave in the wind. 
The bugs, if there were any, would be 
fooled. ■ 

Carl was in a great mood. Ten me- 
ters of Pat at three hundred and twenty- 
five dollars a meter is a nice piece of 
change. And since the roots them- 
selves are not alive, you can put them 
directly into untreated .ground. There's 
something about the sliding of a shov- 
el into the dirt that stirs the blood of a 

"This is the life, right, Gail?" Carl 

I nodded and grinned back at him. 
Even though something about the dirt 
didn't smell right. It didn't smell wrong. 
It just didn't smell at all. 

After lunch at Lord Byron's, Carl sold 
two electric trees at the Garden State 
Mall. The manager wanted the trees 
for a display at the main entrance, and 
Carl had to talk him out of organics. 
Carl doesn't like the electrics any bet- 
ter than I do, but sometimes they are 
the only alternative. 

"I sort of wanted real trees," the 
manager said. 

"Not outdoors you don't," Carl said. 
"Look, organic trees are too frail. Even 
if you could afford them— and you 
can't— they get weird diseases, they 

"Well run some tests to see what his reaction is to being overcharged. " 

fall over. You've got to feed them day 

and night. Let me show you these new 
Dutch Elms from Microsoft." He threw 
the switch on the holoprojector while I 
started piecing together the senso- 
fence. "See how great they look?" Carl 
said. "Go ahead, walk all the way 
around them. We call them The Immor- 
tals. Bugs don't eat on them, they never 
get sick, and all you have to feed them is 
one-ten. We can set this projector up 
on the roof, so you don't have to worry 
about cars running over it." 

"I sort of wanted something that 
cast a shadow," the manager said. 

"You don't want shadows here at 
the mall anyway," said Carl, who had 
an answer for everything when he was 
selling. "And you won't have to worry 
about shoppers walking through the 
t reeS "_he passed his hand through 
the trunk — "and spoiling the image, 
either. That's what this fence is for, 
which my lovely assistant is setting up. 
Ready, Gail?" 

I set two sections of white picket 
fence next to the tree and snapped 
them together-. 

"That's not a holo," said the 

"No, sir. Solid plastic," Carl said. 
"And it does a lot more than just keep 
people from walking or driving through 
the trees. The pickets themselves are 
sophisticated envirosensors. Made in 
Singapore. Watch." 

I turned on the fence, and since 
there was no wind, Carl blew on a pick- 
et. The leaves on the trees waved and 
wiggled. He covered a picket with his 
hand and a shadow fell over the tree- 
tops. "They respond to actual wind and 
sun conditions, for the utmost in total 
realism. Now, let's suppose it looks 
like rain. ..." 

That was my cue. I handed Carl a pa- 
per cup and he sprinkled water on the 
pickets with his fingertips, like a priest 
giving a blessing. The leaves of the 
trees shimmered and looked wet. "We 
call them the Immortals," Carl said 
again, proudly. 
"What about birds?" 

"I read somewhere that birds get con- 
fused and try to land in the branches 
or something," the manager said. "I for- 
get exactly." 

Carl's laugh was suddenly sad. "How 
long since you've seen a bird?" 

Wednesday was the day we had set 
aside to service Carl's masterpiece, the 
Oak Grove at Princeton University. 
These were not ailanth-oaks or compos- 
ite red "woods"; these were full-sized 
white oaks of solid wood that grew not 
out of pots but straight out of the 


The long, saw-toothed lower jaw of the 
whale was gaping wide, preparing to fas- 
ten upon its prey. The creature's head 
was almost concealed beneath the writh- 
ing network of white, pulpy arms with 
which the giant squid was fighting des- 
perately for life. Livid sucker-marks, twen- 
ty centimeters or more in diameter, had 
mottled the whale's skin where those 
arms had fastened. One tentacle was 
already a truncated stump, and there 
could be no doubt as to the ultimate out- 
come of the battle. When the two great- 
est beasts on earth engaged in com- 
bat, the whale was always the winner. 
For all the vast strength of its forest of 
tentacles, the squid's only hope lay in 
escaping before that patiently grinding 
jaw had sawn it to pieces. . . . 

That was merely the beginning of my 
literary involvement wilh Architeuthis. A 
few years later (1957) the short story 
"Big Game Hunt" (reprinted in Tales 
From the White Hart) was a tongue-in- 
cheek account of an attempt to capture 
a giant squid— a project which had 
most deplorable consequences (or all 

In the novel The Deep Range (1957) 
I took this idea more seriously, describ- 
ing a scheme for immobilizing a giant 
squid and bringing it safely back lo the 
surface for for observation, using chem- 
ical anesthesia and electrified fences. 
It might even work; I'd like to see some 
millionaire try it out. 

My favorite treatment of the subject, 
however, occurs in the story already 
mentioned, 'The Shining Ones." This 
tale may one day have some practical 
repercussions, because it pointed 
that Sri Lanka's magnificent east coas: 
harbor of Trincomalee would be ar 
ai site for an Ocean Thermal Energy Con- 
version (OTEC) plant, using the temper- 
ature difference between the surface 
and the freezing abyssal waters as a 
source of power. Efforts are now under 
way to put this idea into practice. 

In "The Shining Ones," an OTEC pro- 
ject was frustrated by a species of 
giant squid that, alas, probably does 
not exist. I assume there was a variety 
that— like their smaller cousins the cuttle- 
fish — could communicate by rapidly 
changing luminescent patterns, so 
they were, in effect, living TV screens. 
The last words of my hero, before he 
descends on his final dive to repair the 
damaged installation in the Trinco can- 
yon are: "Whatever happens, please re- 
member this — they are beautiful, wonder- 
ful creatures Try to come to terms with 
them if you can." 

So much for fiction; now for fact. 
When I was making my television se- 
ries, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious 
World, I was" determined to feature the_ 

giant squid, and by great good luck, 
Yorkshire TV's camera crew was able 
to film one that had been cast ashore 
in Newfoundland. Millions of viewers 
have seen the resulting sequence; al- 
though the specimen was only an im- 
mature female, a mere twenty-five feet 
long, it is scary enough, and gives a 
very good idea of what the really big 
specimens must look like — especially if, 
as the evidence suggests, they grow up 
to 150 feet in length. 

In his radio interview, Peter Bench- 
ley mentioned the case of the schoo- 
ner Pearl, reported (by the London 
Times, 4, July 1874) to have been 
sunk in the Bay of Bengal by a giant 
squid, a'few days after leaving Sri Lan- 
ka's southern port of Galle. My beach 
bungalow is just a couple of kilometers 
further along the coast, so I stood at the 
water's edge and described how the un- 
lucky schooner must have passed this 

^Whatever happens, 

remember this — they 

are beautiful, 

wonderful creatures. 

Try to 

come to terms with them 

if you can. 9 

very spot on the way to her Close En- 
counter of the Fatal Kind. 

The giant squid that sank the Pearl- 
after her master's completely unprovoked 
rifle fire, let it be noted — was lying on the 
surface exactly like the specimen de- 
scribed in Chapter 59 of Moby Dick: 

In the distance, a great white mass 
lazily rose, and rising higher and high- 
er, and disentangling itself from the az- 
ure, at last gleamed before our prow 
like a snow-slide, new slid from the 
hills. Thus glistening for a moment, as 
slowly it subsided, and sank. Then 
once more arose. . . . 

Almost forgetting for the moment all 
thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed 
at the most wondrous phonomenon 
which the secret seas have hitherto re- 
vealed to makind. A vast pulpy mass, 
furlongs in length and breadth, of a 
glancing cream-colour, lay floating on 
the water, innumerable long arms ra- 
diating from its centre, and curling and 
twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if 
blindly to clutch at any hapless object 
within reach. 

We now know that a giant squid that 
has surfaced in tropical waters is almost 
certainly dying— though not necessar- 
ily harmless, as the Pearl discovered. 
Its blood functions efficiently only at the 
very low temperatures, a few degrees 
above freezing point, ■found in the 
abyss. In warm surface waters, the 
blood's ability to absorb oxygen is great- 
ly reduced, so any squid in these cir- 
cumstances is literally suffocating. 
This is reassuring news for swimmers 
and divers in the tropics, but they 
shoudn't press their luck. And in subar- 
tic waters, the giant squid can be agres- 
sively hungry — as was demonstrated by 
the life-raft incident described in "Mys- 
terious World," when one survivor car- 
ried sucker scars to his grave. 

Needless to say, I can't wait to read 
Beast, and though I wish it luck, I'm 
more than a little worried about its im- 
pact. Jaws was largely responsible for 
the appalling carnage wreaked upon 
the shark population during the last cou- 
ple of decades, which now has marine 
conservationists seriously alarmed. In 
fact, P. Benchely is probably the worst 
thing that's happened to sharks since 
that asteroid polished off the dinosaurs 
around 65,000,000 B.C. and boiled the 
Gulf of Mexico. . . . 

I sincerely hope he does not trigger 
another ocean pogrom, aimed at the gi- 
ant squid. If he does, it will serve him 
damn well right if he catches one the 
next time he's out fishing. 

This century has seen a complete 
transformation in our attitude toward oth- 
er animals, including many once con- 
sidered implacably hostile. This is par- 
ticularly true of marine mammals: wit- 
ness oceanahum trainers putting their 
heads in the jaws of killer whales— 
once regarded as the most ferocious of 
all marine mammals. And there's a lo- 
cal guide (not with my company) who 
feeds sharks by presenting fish to 
them— in his mouth. The last time I saw 
him, he did have a few scars. . . 

Such underwater antics suggest an 
interesting possibility. The giant squid 
is almost certainly a highly intelligent an- 
imal: given the opportunity, it might be 
as playful as its cousin — that charming 
mollusk, the common octopus. 

Who will be the first diver to win 
Architeuthis's friendship, and snuggle 
down comfortably in that "nest of 

No, I'm not volunteering. As "Myste- 
ious World" showed, my dive gear is a 
tasteful shade of yellow. 

Hated Jaws 2 because it had such 
a tragic ending. All those horrible 
brats survived, while the beautiful 
shark got turned into fried fish. 

We've made it a practice the 
last couple of years to take an 
occasional look at the evolv- 
ing nature of interactive elec- 
tronic entertainment: video 
and computer games. In the 
interactive entertainment in- 
dustry, better perhaps than 
anywhere else, we get a 
clear glimpse of the power of 
silicon technology to reach al- 
most everyone. Games exert 
an all but universal appeal. 
As a result, the interactive vid- 
eo revolution has achieved 
success of all but overwhelm- 
ing proportions. Even as 
some pundits and analysts 
suggest a softening of the 
market, they're looking at a 
thriving, multibiNion-dollar 

On the following pages sci- 
ence-fiction writer and OM- 
Nl's Electronic Universe col- 
umnist Gregg Keizer lets his 
imagination roam through the 
decades ahead, speculating 
about the interactive futures 
that today's successes 
might build. There are excit- 
ing worlds waiting for us. 

Here we'll take a moment 
to offer some New Year's res- 
olutions — suggestions, real- 
ly—that might help guide you 
through the interactive enter- 
tainment marketplace; 

1) Let your taste in soft- 
ware guide your hardware pur- 
chases. This sounds simple, 
but considering the number 
of different video and comput- 



er systems available, it's easy 
to make a misstep, Shop 
around; play different sys- 
tems in stores or in friends' 
homes, check out the soft- 
ware racks. 

2) If buying a system for 
children, look at its durability 
as well as the range of soft- 
ware available for ages and 
tastes. Video games can be 
frustrating as well as engag- 
ing; shop for engagement. 

3) Consider a computer as 
well as a video game con- 
sole. The two are not mutual- 
ly exclusive. Don't rule out a 
computer for children. Re- 
cent months have seen the 
introduction of hardware pe- 
ripherals and software prod- 
ucts developed specifically 
for younger users. Addition- 
al value accrues as the 
computer grows with 
the child. 

4) If you buy 

a computer, buy the most ful- 
ly functional and multiply use- 
ful one you can afford, 
you're going to use the sys- 
tem for entertainment, you'l 
want graphics and sound. 
Get plenty of memory and stor- 
age capacity. Buy an expand- 
able computer. 

5) Be alert and open to 
new technologies; 1991 saw 
multimedia technology begin 
to come of age, offering en- 
hanced motion and sound as 
well as increased capacity 
via CD-ROM and other pub- 
lishing technologies. It costs 
more, but you get more. 

6) Don't play in a void, 
This is the most subjective of 
the recommendations but 
one worth considering. Inter- 
active doesn't mean simply 

interacting with the video 

k game or computer; 

get a system that 

will let you play 

with friends and family rr 
bers as well as solo. If you 
buy a computer, consider add- 
ing a" modem to put you in 
touch with players all over the 
globe. Play throughout hu- 
man history has been a 
means of getting people to- 
gether. The same can be 
true of electronic play, 

Fortunately, despite — or 
perhaps because of — a 
poor economy, interactive 
technology prices are drop- 
ping precipitously, even as 
the power of the technology 
climbs higher. A couple of 
hundred dollars buys a state- 
of-the-art video game con- 
sole. Two thousand dollars or 
less can net you a computer 
system that would have cost 
five times as much just a cou- 
ple of years ago. Half that 
gets you a perfectly service- 
able computer that can han- 
dle all but the most sophisti- 
cated entertainment software. 

Technology evolves. Be 
prepared for that. The system 
you play on today and the 
games you play on it may 
look like antiques in just a few 

And when that t 
comes, when new systems 
come online, you'll see yet an- 
other leap in the power of ir 
teractive entertainment soft- 
ware to delight and divert, if 
form and entertain, to provide 
play that's not quite like any- 
thing that preceded it. 

Pay your phone bill. That's 
one piece of advice you 
should take to heart — and to 
the end of the decade — if 
you're playing games at 

Silicon entertainment may 
be a solitary sport at the mo- 
ment—man against machine 
in an uneven contest — but as 
phone lines link players in 
webs that stretch across the 
country, conceivably across 
the globe, solitaire gaming 
will give way to endless, on- 
going contests between part- 
ners; teams, and roving elec- 
tronic bands. Social interac- 
tion may be the result, but the 
driving force behind phone 
play will be human competit- 
ion. What fun is there in beat- 
ing a bonehead computer? 
Online entertainment first 
won a beachhead among the 
modem crowd with easy-to- 
display board and card 
games like chess, backgam- 
mon, and blackjack. Multi- 
player combat followed, like 


GEnie's Air Warrior, a simple 
air battle. Select computer 
games offered one-on-one 
play over phone lines. Game- 
specific networks even rose 
to the challenge and drew 
players with promises of in- 
stant access to opponents 
and high-quality group 

But what's available to- 
day—from The Sierra Net- 
work's theme park-style 
construction to Falcon 3.0's 
head-to-head Might simula- 
tor—is but a digital taste test 
of what you'll pick from by the 
end of the nineties. 

Telecommunications gi- 
ants are getting ready to 
move from information trans- 
mitters to information provid- 
ers. Fiber-optic cable may 
not make it into your home by 
the end of the decade, but it'll 

come close. If stock quotes, 
news, and cable television 
come over your phone line by 
the turn of the century, inter- 
active entertainment will, too. 
Your home entertainment 
center will sport a phone 
jack at its back, while inside 
the black box you'll find 
chips to transmit and receive, 
encode and decode, and 
compress and decompress 
the immense amount of data 
that courses back and forth 
through the phone lines. You 
won't lift a finger to dial— 
the game console will do it 
for you. You won't even have 
to look hard for someone to 
play, since your machine will 
automatically compile a list 
of opponents based on the 
games, times, and skills you 

Want to crew a B-17 in 

World War II? Simple. Dial up 
a bunch of online friends and 
go up against a swarm of Me- 
109 and FW-190jnterceptors 
in a fighting, flying simulation 
over Germany. 

Why play rotisserie base- 
ball or fantasy football when 
you can cast an electronic 
net and pull in enough play- 
ers to field an entire electron- 
ic team? Each player sees 
the field from a first-person 
perspective, plays the posi- 
tion, and has a chance to be 
hero or goat. Even if you get 
stuck out in right field, at 
least you'll have a view no 
box seat offers. 

Or sit at a video table and 
play poker with the best 
from Las Vegas or Dead- 
wood, South Dakota. Relaxed 
gambling laws in some 
states— fueled by lotto fever- 
even let you bet online by 
credit card. Gambling hits a 
national motherlode that even 
Don Corleone couldn't have 

Real-time access to mil- 
lions of opponents means 
that you can play what you 
want, when you want, against 
players of amazing abilities or 
against people more your 
match. You can dispose of 
games that rely on the com- 
puter's intelligence— never 
more than a hollow enemy, 
even near the end of the dec- 
ade — and experience the un- 
predictability and ingenuity 
of a living, breathing foe. For 
a hefty price, you may even 
play against a real profes- 
sional; online tours by tech- 
nically savvy baseball stars, 
senior golf greats, and for- 

The tele- 
and Interactive 
ment revolutions 
are rapidly 
coming together to 
create a whole 

■mm i mm- 

^- ■•"* \ ' v*. . II|IM , -J 

mer statesmen will be the 
rage. Imagine teeing up with 
the real Nicklaus or Trevino at 
a computerized golf coursel 

All the while, the commu- 
nications companies will be 
raking in the charges. At- 
home entertainment, where 
you don't have to leave the 
couch to take on anyone, any- 
where, will depend in large 
part on keeping the phone 
lines open. 

Don't let your kids tie up 
the telephone. A busy signal 
may cost you the '97 World 
Series, World War II, or a 
million bucks. 

— Gregg Keizer 

new universe 
of interconnected 
entertainment op- 
Dial up and play 
someone, anyone, 
anytime, any- 

in the world. 

LINKS So realistic, you'll think you're there 

a great time of year for a round of golf. 

• Digitized graphics & s 

$59.95 game. " — Golf World 

§J^\j\sC JjT SLC. UT 84116 


The Simpsons are in a bind, and it's up to you 
to bail them out in two new blockbuster computer 
games from Konamif 

The Simpsons™ Arcade Game brings home all 
the action and humor of the original, arcade hit. 
With Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa racing to reunite 
the family after Maggie's nabbed during ajewel 
heist. Pick your favorite family member and charge 
through all eight arcade levels and both hilarious 
bonus stages. Krustyland, Springfield Discount 
Cemetery, Moe's Tavern, it's all here. Including 
vibrant 3-D scenes, Bart's digitized voice, music 
inspired by the TV series, and original Simpsons 

Clobber hordes of bad dudes and bizarre enemies 
using each character's unique attack move, as 
well as patented tandem attacks. Hurl whatever's 

%ur contributbn can give 
hope to a desperate family-^ 

handy, like sidewalk signs, trash bins, even cats, 
dogs and raccoons. Each level ends with an 
especially fiendish foe like a bionic Mr. Burns, or a 
giant Krusty the Clown head. Pair up with a friend 
and double the Simpsons' chances of survival. Do 
your part to bring America's most animated family 
back together again. 

Bart's in trouble, man. The whole Simpsons 
house is weirded out. And it's up to you to help 
him find the coolest item in the universe in his own 
action/ adventure, Bart's House of Weirdness™ 
Featuring Bart's digitized voice, music inspired by 
the TV show and The Simpsons' veiy own warped 
sense of humor. 

Become Bart and enter six weird worlds 
attached to your room. Choose your paths and 
journey through the Simpsons' spooky attic, 

treacherous backyard, the haunted burial ground, 
a wild nightmare starring Itchy and Scratchy and 
more. Gain special powers by finding the three 
cool objects you need to enter the Radical Zone, 
home of the all-time coolest thing in existence. 
Along the way grab radical weapons you'll need 
like the Burp Gun, Water Balloon, Spray Paint Can 
and others. Your adventure's filled with notorious 
Simpsons ne'er-do-wells, including Ms. Botz the 
baby sitter, the Space Mutants and Sideshow Bob. 

maintain youi ^J KONAMI 
Cool Factor by *^ 

gobbling up donuts. Any false move will definitely 
cost you coolness, but forge ahead, man, and help 
out everyone's favorite troubled youth. 

^_and provide help for 
(/^ troubled youth. 

Modern war is electronic war. 
Without computers, smart 
weapons would be as dumb 
as their (reefalling, nineteenth- 
century predecessors. Ad- 
vanced jets wouldn't fly, anti- 
missile missiles wouldn't 
stand a prayer of connecting 
with their targets, and soldiers 
would be lost in the dust and 
storm of battle. War games, 
kriegspiels to the Prussians 
who invented them, let mili- 
tary minds practice their 
craft without expending pre- 
cious commodities of bullets 
and bodies. 

War games, not just weap- 
ons, went electronic as sol- 
diers demanded a more re- 
alistic mimicry of the fog 
of war. Duplicating war 
on the home comput- 
er may not get you a 
spot on the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, but it can 
let you face the challeng- 
es of conflict. Organiza- I 
Bon, logistics, and strategy 
play well on the computer 
screen; re-creating 

history.. is simple 

when muiiUmk the com- 


puter replays the bumbling 
moves of real generals. After 
all, no human player would 
moronically duplicate Pick- 
ett's Charge or Custer's rush 
to the Little Bighorn. Current 
computer war is either rough 
and sketchy or too complex 
to master without West Point 
training. In the former, the 
computer screen does a 
poor job of replacing a paper 
gameboard, while in the lat- 
ter, the PC feeds you so 
many decisions that you 
need a staff to handle the 
load. The best military soft- 
ware of the nineties will 
make better use of the com- 
puter. Rather than bog you 
down with details, your 
computerized game sys- 
tem will let you give 
marching orders in plain 

Adjustable levels of in- 
terest will be built into 
every war game so that it can 
be used equally well by kids 
studying history 
and by fanatic bat- 
tle buffs. Games 
will feature high- 
resolution maps 
of the battlefield 
for a satellite's- 
eye view. Some 

semble paper-based board 
games more closely, with 
counters representing battal- 
ions and regiments. You'll 
play the most expensive war 
games on displays that lie 
flatonthetabletop. Based on 
flat-screen LCD television 
technology, such electronic 
maps are touch sensitive; put 
a stylus to the screen to pick 
up a piece, draw a line to or- 
der its march, and tap the 
screen to tell it to attack. 

Brighter presentation may 
make war games snap out of 
the doldrums, but it will be 
their play that pulls them out 
of the military history ghetto. 
Rather than bury you under 
the minutia of command- 
How many tons of stores 
must be brought forward 
to feed your army? — to- 
morrow's computerized 
war games will offer elec- 
tronic aides-de-camp who 
handle all the scut work for 
you. You look at the big pic- 
ture, whether that's tactical or 
strategic. As Napoleon, do 
you invade Russia or swim 
the English Channel instead? 
As Yamamoto, do you strike 
the Americans at the Coral 
Sea or head east into the In- 
dian Ocean? As an infantry 
commander at Shiloh, do you 

With luck, 
we'll put away 
our warlike 
tendencies, and 
retire the 
real bombs and 
tanks, but it's 
unlikely we'll ever 
outgrow our 
love el war games. 
And war games 
themselves are 
rapidly growing up, 

stand your ground in the Hor- 
net's Nest or fall back to 
save your division? 

If you want, you can 
watch the play unfold as the 
computer makes all the de- 
cisions. Multimedia helps 
here with video, digitized 
speech, musical scores, and 
sound effects that enhance 
the experience. You'll be able 
to follow Xenophon's march 
across Asia Minor, complete 
with scenes of the mountain 
passes he fought through, vid- 
eo clips of ruins of the peri- 
od, and background informa- 
tion about the Persian Empire 
at your fingertips. Role-play- 
ing military games will arrive, 
too, that let you see war from 
the fictional perspective of a 
single combatant. Replay the 
Civil War from a Virginian's 
point of view, for instance, 
with all the choices real sol- 
diers faced. Battle re-crea- 
tions appear in rotoscoped an- 
imation; the confusion of bat- 
tle is generated in your living 
room. With such sophisticat- 
ed wargames available, the 
lines between military training 
and historical entertainment 
will blur. We won't become cit- 
izen soldiers or generals — 
but the vicarious experience 
may give some a better feel 
for both the challenge and 
chaos of war. The day may 
come when the only wars 
know are Ihose fought from 
plastic discs.— Gregg Keizer 

a sophistication 

and realism 

that's light-years 

removed from 

tin soldiers, plastic 


and toy generals. 

THE 1991 DEMO Powerpak 



The 1991 Demo Powerpak is no ordinary software sampler. It lets you experience each game 

by playing it! Play-not just watch- the opening levels of the hottest new software releases Get the 

feel of how each game plays, and decide which games you prefer before you Puy! 

The 1991 Demo Powerpak includes playable previews of: 


Enter the world of spies and intrigue 
In this new adventure offering from 

Konami Software. Create your 

own agenfs, set up wiretaps, and 

don disguises, as you try to stop an 

underworld plot to topple the 



A new flight simulation experience 
from Konami. Learn Jet-fighter tactics 
from three veteran war aces, thrill to 
multiple target views Including "missile 

cam, "and fly missions solo or in 
simultaneous, two-player split screen I 


Private eye Tex Murphy is back in a 

hilarious new Interactive movie 
adventure from Access Software. For 
the first time, players will be able to 
interact with full motion video charac- 
ters on a disk- based product, as they 

help Tex face murder, romance, 

deception, and prophecy from present 

day-San Francisco to the year 2039. 


A new challenge from the TETRIS 

people at Spectrum HoloByte. The fast 

action, falling blocks now have 

letters on them, which players try to 

form Into words.' Time is of the 
essence os you try to maneuver letter 
tiles to spell words, as they fall from 
the top of the screen into the well. If 
you like TETRIS, you'll love WORDTRIS. 


You'll meet some pretty strange 

characters playing this addicting Soviet 

mind-teaser from Spectrum Holobyte. 

Falling block pieces of famous and 

not-so-famous faces must be stocked 

In the proper order (mouth to chin, 

eyes to nose) to form complete faces. 

Remember there are no points for 

"douPle chins' in this game! 


You'll also receive a complete, ready-to-run version of "Best PC Games" as a special 

bonus. This disk contains 9 challenging games! There are also diskount coupons enclosed with each 

1991 Demo Powerpak to use toward the purchase of your favorite PC products. 

640K required. VGA required for some demos, 

YE5I Send me the 1 90 1 Demo Powerpak, so I can experience 
the hottest new releases from the best commercial software 
housesl Send me the disk format checked below. 
Requires high density drive 
D 5-1/4" Disks(Setof4)-$9.95 □ 3-1/2" Disks(Set of 4)-Sl 1.95 


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Special Demo Disk Offer 

324 W. Wendover Avenue, Suite 200, Greensboro, N.C. 27408 

Life's a game. Literally. 

Technology working its 
way through one of the coun- 
try's most influential comput- 
er labs, Xerox's Palo Alto Re- 
search Center, may one day 
be abls to turn our world into 
one immense playing field. 

Researchers at Xerox 
PARC envision a time when 
hundreds of computers fill a 
room. Tiny computers affixed 
to Post-it note-sized badges 
keep track of your wherea- 
bouts, forward calls to you no 
matter where you are, and 
help you organize your work 
on a real desktop. You carry 
around larger computers 
with pressure-sensitive 
screens for note-taking and 
electronic communications. 
Wall-sized screens act as dig- 
ital bulletin boards and group- 
work slates. 

This idea of ubiquitous com- 
puting, with microprocessors 
everywhere, has implications 
for electronic entertainment, 
too. When computers and lo- 
cation finders are every- 
where, games can be 
played almost anywhere. 
Add other 4£fo high-tech 
accessor- UPries— LCD 
glasses that project words, im- 
ages, and symbols right in 
front of your eyes, for in- 
stance — and you ^fchave 
the workings of ^^ twen- 
ty-first-century entertainment. 
Take hide-and-seek, for ex- 
ample. With computerized 


badges that everyone 
wears, and monitoring de- 
vices that know where 
everyone is, it's a snap to 
mark one wearer as it, The 
others search high and low, 
aided by the computers. 
Hints appear on eyeglass 
screens. It is somewhere on 
44th between Hilyard and 
Creswell Streets, it is travel- 
ing south on Park. 

Or a game could turn an 
entire city into a labyrinth. Cer- 
tain streets seem blocked off 
with Berlin Wall-like barriers; 
they're not, but the glasses 
make it appear as if they are; 
you have to negotiate the 
maze to reach an exit before 
the others. 

Treasure hunts could turn 
high tech, with badges at- 
tached to 40k inanimate 
objects Wf scattered 

over a square mile of down- 
town, Whoever gathers the 
most, wins. Close in on a 
badge, your glasses tint red. 
You're getting warmer. 

At the shopping mall, larg- 
er arcades will include indoor 
arenas where computing 
reigns. Take on the arena's 
computer, which fires low- 
powered lasers at its targets, 
in a next-century version of 
Steal the Rag. The computer 
knows where you are by read- 
ing your badge but gives you 
a break early in the game by 
purposefully missing.The long- 
er you play, though, the 
more accurate its laser 
strikes become. You try to 
run, crawl, and leap from one 
end of the arena to the other 
before the laser touches 
your badge and knocks you 
out of the game. 

Out in the country, ubiq- 
uitous computing might take 
a different turn. Imag- 
ine a highway 
;hase game 

car's position is transmitted to 
the other players once every 
ten minutes. You may lose 
your shadows for a while, but 
eventually they'll corner you 
and paint your car with an 
infrared beam that disables 
your engine once it washes 
across the detectors ar- 
ranged on the trunk lid. 

More traditional electronic 
entertainment benefits, too. 
Carry a slate-style computer 
on the train to work, for in- 
stance, and its cellular mo- 
dem could connect you with 
your favorite opponent. Wait- 
ing for a plane? No problem, 
Just call up a game on your 
slate and let the computer 
comoile a list of possible play- 
ers in the same airport. You 
could meet over coffee and 
play face to face while you 
await- your flights. 

When computers are ev- 
erywhere, games could even 
go commercial. Stores 
might run instant contests to 
get customers. Here's the 
shop, a map on the inside of 
the LCD glasses indicates. 
Here you are. Get from here 
to there in half an hour and 
you win a discount. 

Ubiquitous computing 
takes entertainment out on 
the streets, or, at the least, 
out of the family room. You'll 
be able to play anytime, 

How will we find time to 
work? — Gregg Keizer 

As computer 
technology spreads 
throughout our 
world, we'll 
have more and 
more chances 
to make games out 
of real world 
places, events, and 
The world will be 
our playground, 
and each of us will 
be able to play 
a part on the global 
gaming stage. 



Having predicted order in many wild 

and irregular systems, a Prince of Chaos now takes on 

evolution and the stock market 


The Chaos Cabal started in the late sev- 
enties as a rogue band of physics grad- 
uate students at the University of Califor- 
nia at Santa Cruz. As a founding member, 
Norman Packard was an early instigator 
of a scientific revolution. Using comput- 
ers salvaged from the physics department 
basement or cobbled together from 
scratch, Packard and his colleagues 
Robert Shaw, Doyne Farmer and James 
Crutchfield, shocked the scientific com- 
munity by discovering that many aspects 
of nature are intrinsically unpredictable. 
Even simple deterministic systems that 
seem to have precise rules for going 
from one moment in time to another, if pro- 
jected far enough into the future, devel- 
op loops, folds, spirals — all telltale signs 
of order giving way to chaos. 

in the process of throwing predictabil- 
ity out the window, the Dynamical Systems 
Collective, as the Cabal was formally 
called, took delight in finding chaos al- 
most everywhere it looked — in heart at- 
tacks, epileptic seizures, stock market 
crashes, weather patterns, and even drip- 
ping faucets. Instead of being straight- 
jacketed into solvable linear equations, 
reality was now allowed to run wild in the 
nonlinear, dynamic patterns it actually 
prefers to take. 

Mother to this invention was the com- 
puter. It alone has the patience to project 
simple systems far enough into the future 
where chaos begins to wobble their tra- 
jectories. And no one is more agile than 
Packard and friends at delineating cha- 
os through feats of silicon wizardry. 

But even before the Cabal came the 
Eudaemonic Pie, a now-fabled collective 
of young physicists including Packard and 
Farmer who built toe-operated micro- 
computers to beat the odds at roulette 
in Las Vegas. Time after time, the Eu- 
daemons went back inside the casinos, 
risking life and limb from the pit bosses 
to try out yet another configuration of 
their gambling hardware and programs. 
Knocking over conventional physics and 
making it pay at the casinos were Pack-^ 
ard's two early claims to fame. After 
his dubious start in life as maverick 
grad student and gambler, Pack- 
ard as weil as the other members 

of the Chaos Cabal rose meteorically in the 
physics community. 

The son of a high school mathematics 
teacher, Packard grew up in Silver City, 
New Mexico, along with fellow Cabalist, 
Farmer, whom he met in Explorer Scouts. 
After attending Reed College and Univer- 
sity of California at Santa Cruz, Packard 
went on to a NATO fellowship in Paris and 
several years in Princeton at the Institute 
for Advanced Study. Now at the Univer- 
sity of Illinois' Center for Complex Sys- 
tems, he is also a consultant to organiza- 
tions ranging from the Santa Fe Institute 
to the Italian government. Married to his 
former Italian tutor, Packard spends 
much of his time in Milan and Turin. It was 
in Milan where Thomas Bass, who first 
chronicled the adventures of Packard and 
crew in The Eudaemonic Pie met Pack- 
ard for this interview. 

Today Packard, 37, is embarked on sev- 
eral major projects that are outgrowths of 
his work on chaos. One involves the study 
of evolving systems — things like snow- 
flakes and the stock market; another at- 
tempts to model evolution itself. And Pack- 
ard and friends are also starting a sort of 
investment firm to ride the chaos of the 
financial markets themselves. Allied in all 
these ventures as both tool and subject 
of his mathematical art are computers, 
thinking machines that Packard expects 
quite soon will start evolving on their own. 

Omni: You were involved in the Eudae- 
monic Pie experiment for so long. Why did 
you stay with it? 

Packard: A certain amount of it was this 
conviction that it was possible, [to beat 
the casinos] and feeling the necessity to 
realize this conviction. That was perhaps 
the root of the obsession, proving to our- 
selves as well as the world at large that 
it was a viable program. Our scientific in- 
in dynamical systems and pre- 
diction, and so there was a kind of coin- 
cidence, too, that fed the fires of obses- 
sion — although it's not clear from that pro- 
ject whether we learned more about the 
science of dynamic systems, microcom- 
puter design, programming assem- 
" bly language, or other things that 
' maybe aren't scientific knowledge. 

Omni: Will you go back to the casinos? 
Packard: Absolutely not! Not to the ca- 
sinos of Las Vegas! But I am at this very 
moment going to the casinos of Wall 
Street and Chicago's futures market. 
Our interest in financial markets has flow- 
ered into the starting of a company, The 
Prediction Company, cofounded by me 
with Doyne Farmer of roulette fame. 
We're teaming up again with Eudaemon 
colleagues to apply complex data anal- 
ysis to the financial markets. We hope 
to start trading fairly large funds very 
saon. We have a business manager 
and corporate structure, so cosmetical- 
ly it's quite different than our gambling 
forays in the early days of the Pie. 
Omni: How will your analysis of the 
stock market and the study of evolution- 
ary models come together? 
Packard: If the stock market or biolog- 
ical species change statistical contexts, 
the learning algorithm [program] doing 
your data analysis has to know what 
kinds of evolutionary changes are pos- 
sible. And it must respond to these 
changes. The two realms will meet 
when computers become sophisticated 
enough to recapitulate evolutionary 
changes. For example, in economic sys- 
tems, the algorithms assume everybody 
out there is implementing some kind of 
average behavior. But in fact, people 
are gradually changing their minds, 
changing their strategies in evolution- 
ary ways. Right now, the learning algo- 
rithms have no way of taking those 
changes into account. The two ap- 
proaches will meet when people's grad- 
ually changing attitudes and interac- 
tions within the economy can be mod- 
eled using evolutionary models. 
Omni: You're saying that relationships 
within the marketplace and people in 
their economic life display behavior 
resembling evolutionary processes. 
Packard: Right. In fact, people's chang- 
ing attitudes and behaviors are evolu- 
tionary processes. 

Omni: How do you formulate models of 
evolutionary processes? 
Packard: You begin by characterizing 
the defining properties of evolutionary 
process. One is an increase in complex- 
ity; another is an increase in informa- 
.tion processing capability. Still another 
is the constant ability of the biosphere 
to generate new possibilities, which 
then come to have a function or pur- 
pose in the biosphere— that is, the liv- 
ing, interacting organisms in the 
earth's complex web. 

Another problem is figuring out if 
evolutionary change has a sense of 
direction. Some people call this direc- 
tion "progress," but this is a loaded 
word, and I'm not sure I want to say 
that humans" represent progress over^ 
86 OMNI 

bacteria. I'm writing a paper with a 
section on how evolutionary processes 
are teleological. Teleology is the study 
of things that seem to exhibit purpose- 
ful behavior. 

Teleological explanations have fallen 
out of favor because the fundamental 
laws of nature allow you to derive the 
consequences of various actions with- 
out dealing with their purpose. But 
many aspects of evolutionary process 
cannot be derived from fundamental 
laws, at least in the same way that you 
can derive the trajectory of a missile. 
Omni: How is chaos theory linked 
to evolution? 

Packard: One aspect of chaos is that 
simple systems can generate informa- 
tion as the system evolves. You put in 
simple rules and starting conditions, 
stand back, and observe all this very 
complicated stuff coming simply from 
the trajectory of the chaotic system. It 

6My model 
biosphere has little 

organisims moving 
around in a two- 
dimensional world. The 

only other thing 
in this world is food. 9 

feels almost like you're getting some- 
thing from nothing. 

Evolution is even more complex 
than chaos because an evolving sys- 
tem is constantly becoming increas- 
ingly complex. Since I begin with sim- 
ple things, either in data analysis or 
evolutionary model building, I don't 
have to be too smart to start the proc- 
ess. Then I let the world evolve to 
show me its complexity. 
Omni: What did your first models of the 
evolutionary process look like? 
Packard: Doyne Farmer, Alan Perelson, 
Stuart Kauffman, and I began by con- 
structing stripped-down models for the 
origin of life, the immune system, the 
economy, and the biosphere — all of 
which are undergoing evolutionary 
change. My model biosphere has little 
one-celled organisms moving around in 
a two-dimensional world. The only oth- 
er thing in this world is food, a source 
of energy. Basically, the organism's 
genes encode a strategy for moving to- 
ward food. I'm trying to get my bugs to 
learn this task as they evolve. In real 

terms, you might think of my organisms 
as bacteria in a petri dish trying to find 
sugar. When an organism has enough 
food, it can reproduce, and the genet- 
ic makeup of the new organism will be 
slightly different than that of the parent. 
Omni: Have you seen any mutations in- 
to variant species? 

Packard: Species in the real biological 
world are related to selective repro- 
duction, My little creatures have no 
such discrimination. They just repro- 
duce with each other. But groups of or- 
ganisms with similar characteristics do 
emerge, and I'm now trying to find wheth- 
er these groups are stable enough to 
be considered separate species. An 
advantage of a world within a comput- 
er is that it forces you to define con- 
cepts like species in the simplest pos- 
sible context. Ideally, the thrust of this 
work is to slash away at some of the de- 
tail of biology and discover the few el- 
ements that capture essential evolution- 
ary behavior. 

Omni: Is your biosphere similar to 
Richard Dawkins' [author of The Self- 
ish Gene]? 

Packard: In my biosphere, random ge- 
netic changes alter my organisms' sur- 
vival strategies. I'm not reaching in 
there and twiddling knobs on the organ- 
isms as Dawkins does with his biomor- 
phs, He accepts or rejects mutations 
on the basis of aesthetic appeal. My 
bugs aren't as photogenic as Dawkins', 
but organisms in my biosphere live or 
die based solely on whether a genetic 
change is functional in the environ- 
ment. If an organism gets enough 
food, it will persist. 

Omni: So the organisms are, in a 
sense, learning during their evolution? 
Packard: Precisely! A population of or- 
ganisms, with each one shifting its sur- 
vival strategies during reproduction, 
is implementing a learning algorithm. 
Lineages of organisms are learning to 
survive, but their learning is limited by 
the fact that their world is self-con- 
tained. They are only adapting to their 
environment, which is constantly being 
changed due to the presence of the 
other organisms. It's very hard to tell 
just what goal the organisms are learn- 
ing to achieve. 

Omni: What applications might such 
evolving learning systems have? 
Packard: They'll help us understand cre- 
ative processes. The principles under- 
lying evolving learning systems could 
be used to make thinking machines, 

Instead of merely organizing knowl- 
edge, learning algorithms ask the com- 
puter to perform exploratory tasks and 
discover things it wasn't explicitly pro- 
grammed to do. Learning algorithms, 
model biospheres, and other genetic 

"Jeez! Musta been one hell of a party!" 

methods allow for the introduction of cre- 
ative elements into computer programs. 
The creative potential of thinking ma- 
chines is what intrigues me. 

When the smart analysis algorithms 
can perform as well as. I envision, they 
should become an integral part of the 
United Nations and the policy-making 
decisions of every major government. 
Ideally, they will make it much easier to 
find social, economic, policy paths to 
stable, productive situations that now 
seem to be eluding us all over the 
world. Debt-ridden national economies 
struggling to attain some kind of equi- 
librium by making radical economic 
changes provide a classic example of 
hard decision-making involving many, 
many factors. 

John Reed, president of Citicorp, fund- 
ed the Santa Fe Institute in part to har- 
ness the skills of several branches of 
science to combat these large-scale so- 
cial issues and to search for nontrau- 
matic paths to equilibria. He assembled 
economists, natural and computer sci- 
entists to synthesize new perspectives 
on large-scale global problems. A ma- 
jor thrust is the development of evolu- 
tionary models and learning algorithms. 
Omni: How do you define chaos? 
Packard: Chaos is a particular kind of 
random motion, one that combines 
both randomness and structure. The sys- 
tem starts somewhere in space and 
goes along until it falls onto an attrac- 
tor. With the simplest kind of attractor, 
a fixed point, the system goes toward 
a single state and stays there. You see 
this with a marble in a bowl; it rattles 
around until it reaches the bottom of the 
bowl. With a periodic attractor, the sys- 
tem cycles through a sequence of 
states, like a metronome's arm moving 
left to right and back again in a regular 
cycle. If you perturb it briefly, it tends 
to return to its set cycle. 

Now, the intrinsic randomness of the 
chaotic system limits predictability. But 
the structure of the attractor implies 
that you can predict part of the time 
what the system will do. Chaos repre- 
sents an indeterminate level of predict- 
ability between, say, the motion of the 
planets, which is derivable, and some- 
thing completely random, like particles 
in Brownian motion. Chaos represents sys- 
tems that are random in the long run but 
have just enough structure so that in the 
short run you can figure out what they're 
going to do. The name of the game for my 
data analysis techniques and learning 
algorithms is to probe that limit. How tar 
into the future can you predict? 
Omni: How do you recognize chaos? 
Packard: Random behavior in a system 
that is mainly deterministic leads to a 
particular property of chaos. Two trajec- 

88 OMNI 

tories starting out from nearly the 
same states will ultimately end up very 
far away 'from each other, Very small in- 
itial differences are expanded by the 
way the system evolves. This has been 
called the butterfly effect, or "sensitive 
dependence on initial conditions." Say 
a leaf runs down a babbling brook. If 
you drop another leaf in the brook pre- 
cisely where you dropped the first, it 
might do the same thing for a little 
while. But soon it will do something com- 
pletely different. One reason is because 
you didn't put the leaf in the brook at 
exactly the same place as the first. And 
the slight difference becomes magnified 
into a completely different behavior. 
Omni: What examples of chaos exist in 
our everyday world? 
Packard: A dripping faucet is Rob 
Shaw's [UC Santa Cruz] classic exam- 
ple of a chaotic system. Water running 
slowly out of a faucet will drip periodi- 

6When the 

smart analysis algorithms 

can perform 

as well as I envision, 

they should 
become an integral 

part of 
the United Nations. 9 

cally. Water running fast will flow smooth- 
ly. But somewhere in between is a re- 
gime where the water drips erratically. 
If you represent it the right way, this er- 
ratic dripping displays not only random- 
ness, but also the very definite struc- 
ture of a strange attractor, 

A strange attractor is the envelope of 
all possible behaviors of a system. A fun- 
damental description of water dripping 
from a faucet requires an infinite 
amount of information to completely 
specify the state of the falling drop's sur- 
face. Yet with all that complexity in the 
water drop, the behavior system itself 
can become collapsed into a simple 
structure that needs only a few varia- 
bles to describe. Other kinds of random- 
ness don't have this "collapse" into a 
simple form. A lot of randomness is pro- 
duced by something much more compli- 
cated. And I wouldn't call that chaos. 
Omni: Does chaos always involve a 
strange attractor? 

Packard: Chaos, in the strict sense, is 
randomness produced from some sim- 
ple form, and the geometrical form pro- 

ducing the chaos is a strange attrac- 
tor. A system starts out in some state 
and then relaxes onto an attractor. If 
you kick it a little bit, it gets jostled away 
from the attractor and then relaxes 
back down onto this object that lives in 
state space? 
Omni: State space?!? 
Packard: A strange attractor is an ob- 
ject in state space just as an ashtray is 
an object in space. Except in a state 
space the coordinates are not like x, y, 
zcoordinates. They depend on context. 
The state space of an economic sys- 
tem is the value of all the stocks, the 
money supply, foreign exchange rates 
(such as the exchange rates of the dol- 
lar and Deutsche mark), the price of 
treasury bonds, Standard and Poor's in- 
dex, and so on. These are the state 
space variables and its coordinates. 
Just as you can describe the geomet- 
rical properties of this ashtray, so can 
you describe the geometrical properties 
of a strange attractor in state space. 
Omni: Is a strange attractor a force 
like gravity? 

Packard: A strange attractor is not a 
force — it doesn't have the same kind of 
physical reality as gravity. The state- 
space picture for a dripping faucet 
shows you a certain kind of structure. 
The state space data for the stock mar- 
ket may show the same kind of struc- 
ture. These structures can be identified 
as manifestations of a particular kind of 
strange attractor. The meaning of the 
variables for each of these state spac- 
es is different, but the attractor is the 
same. The science of chaos tries to fig- 
ure out which kinds of attractors are com- 
monly found everywhere. 

One outstanding question in the 
field is how to classify these peculiar 
shapes, which sometimes resemble lop- 
sided butterflies. What are all the pos- 
sible shapes, and which ones are com- 
monly found in nature? We don't have 
the answers yet, but some people are 
very skilled at writing equations of mo- 
tion that produce strange attractors. 
Omni: [Santa Cruz mathematician] 
Ralph Abraham wrote, "Many people be- 
lieve that the connection between cha- 
otic attractors of theory and those of ex- 
periments is fictitious." 
Packard: That statement is out of date 
by now. Ten years ago people were un- 
certain whether the strange attractors 
being illustrated by computers had any 
relevance to physical systems like drip- 
ping faucets. By now we have strong 
evidence connecting these random phe- 
nomena in the real world to the ab- 
stract, simple models we study. 
Omni: Are there strange attractors all 
around that we're not trained to see? 
Packard: Right. In a decade 1 predict 

there wilt be children's computer pro- 
grams for strange attractors. 
Omni: Would chaos and strange attrac- 
tors ever have been discovered with- 
out computers? 

Packard: Experiments that once in- 
volved flasks and electric wires are now 
done in the laboratory of the comput- 
er. The computer provides such a cru- 
cial jump in the way we do science be- 
cause it allows us to move into a realm 
where not all equations have solutions. 
Nonlinear systems can display their 
feathers, and all of a sudden we see 
they have a whole bunch of plumage 
that linear systems didn't have. The sci- 
ence of chaos is a process of discov- 
ery, and in the process, these new 
kinds of behavior display themselves. 
The trick is to figure out ways to view 
them in their full intricacy. 
Omni: What was the importance of the 
Chaos Cabal in the early history of cha- 
os theory? 

Packard: Our biggest contribution to the 
field was to push the idea of looking at 
real data and asking whether it came 
from a strange attractor or some other 
kind of random motion. We developed 
some of the first steps for answering 
these questions and characterizing 
strange attractors. The development of 
learning algorithms to press predictabil- 
ity as far as it can be pressed is an out- 
growth of those first steps. This is one 
of the most important parts of chaos the- 
ory today. 

Omni: As scientific revolutions go, cha- 
os seems to have been accepted rap- 
idly and with little opposition by the sci- 
entific community. 

Packard: You're right. But there is still 
uncertainty in the field about what cha- 
os theory is going to produce, what its 
-applications will be. Chaos is a ubiqui- 
tous aspect of reality, and it's import- 
ant to understand its mechanisms, but 
it's not clear that this will allow us to 
build a better mousetrap. I wouldn't sug- 
gest spending billions on strange attrac- 
tors and chaos theory as it initially 
emerged, but I might well suggest 
spending billions trying to understand 
evolutionary processes. 
Omni: You used to aspire to be a Ren- 
aissance man. . . . 

Packard: I still play the piano, play Go, 
and sing choral music, even if | am 
forced to pay the price of mediocrity in 
return for diversity. I've managed to main- 
tain a certain breadth in my intellectual 
endeavors, and, in fact, all of us in the 
Santa Cruz group have been extreme- 
ly lucky in this regard. We're still carry- 
ing on the idealistic vision of the Cha- 
os Cabal's early research into physics, 
computational theory, biology, statistics, 
economics, and art. At the time, we 

felt our research would have broad ram- 
ifications in many fields, and this has 
turned out to be the case. In fact, the 
research has forced us away from spe- 
cialization. (Many of Rob Shaw's spe- 
cial effects for the movie Split, were pro- 
duced by chaotic systems.) 
Omni: You've said one task of chaos the- 
ory is to introduce the analysis of crea- 
tivity into the scientific endeavor. 
Packard: Science has generally not con- 
cerned itself with creative processes be- 
cause they involve phenomena inher- 
ently underivable from fundamental law. 
Many scientists assume science will 
eventually tackle the entire range of nat- 
ural phenomena, including creative proc- 
esses. Today we have the hydrogen at- 
om and a few simple molecules; tomor- 
row we'll be able to derive properties 
of complex molecules, then cells, then 
eventually organisms and brains. But 
this assumption is absolutely false. 

iWe're still 

carrying on the idealistic 

vision of the 

Chaos Cabal's early 

research into 

physics, statistics, 


economics, and art. 9 

There are certain points beyond which 
you can't derive what is going to hap- 
pen at the next level of complexity. Cre- 
ative aspects of evolutionary process- 
es are an example of how these deriva- 
bilfty gaps can occur. 

From the Greeks to the present — 
because science got tied up in deriv- 
ing things from fundamental law— the 
idea of change as having its own reali- 
ty got left by the wayside. There was 
an intellection bifurcation, and the cre- 
ative aspects of the world became reli- 
gious questions. This dichotomy broke 
down wjth the advent of Darwinian ev- 
olution. But science is still having a 
hard time formulating theories about ev- 
olutionary experiments because it 
takes so damn long and the systems 
are so complex. But computers are now 
giving science a new tool for address- 
ing these creative phenomena. 

Computers will become creative ma- 
chines in much the same way you're a 
creative machine or that the biosphere 
is a creative machine. Computers will 
become creative by being able to 

search out ways of thinking and solv- 
ing problems they were not explicitly pro- 
grammed to do beforehand. 
Omni: Some people are terrified by the 
prospect of creative machines, but you 
seem quite pleased by it. 
Packard: I expect computers will start 
participating in our evolutionary reality. 
There is a human tendency to be wor- 
ried about the survival of ourselves and 
our species. But in an evolutionary 
time scale, these things come and go. 
I can't really get too depressed about 
the prospect of humanity not being 
around forever. Evolutionary, you 
would expect something else to come 
along eventually, and It will be interest- 
ing to see what does. The advent of 
these new participants in the evolution- 
ary process might well give us a 
chance to see what interesting things 
will arrive next. That's exciting rather 
than depressing. 

Omni: If they're capable of creativity, 
could computers replace their masters? 
Packard: If you feel threatened, you can 
always pull the plug. Computers can par- 
ticipate in our evolutionary process in 
many ways without being antagonistic. 
The fact that new elements come into 
the biosphere doesn't mean everything 
else has to die. And even if some ele- 
ments die, is it really a shame we no 
longer have dinosaurs? Maybe if we die 
out then some other even more beau- 
tiful species will be created in the fu- 
ture. I have a certain aesthetic attach- 
ment to evolution itself, and if one of our 
creations stopped this evolutionary proc- 
ess, I'd find that offensive. But it's 
more likely to happen with atom 
bombs than computers. DO 


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"ground"— a ,09-acre ecotrap colloid 
reservoir saturated with a high-elec- 
trolyte forced-drip solution of Arborpryz- 
inamine Plus, the most effective (and 
expensive) IV arbo-stabilizer ever devel- 
oped. The ground colloid was so firm 
that the trees stood without cables, ful- 
ly 44 feet tall. They were grand. The 
Grove was seven oaks in all, only two 
less than the state forest in Windham. 
Princeton was the only private institution 
in New Jersey that could afford so many 
organic trees. 

But something was wrong. There 
wasn't a leaf on any of them. 

"Code Seven. Gail," said Carl with an 
undertone of panic in his voice. I 
limped up the hill as fast as I could 
and checked the vats under the Human- 
ities building, but they were almost full 
and the solution was correct, so I left 
them. Trees aren't like grass; there 
was no point in cranking up the IV 
pump pressure. 

Carl was honking the horn, so I got 
back in the truck and we left to look for 
the Dean of Grounds. He wasn't in his 
office. We found him at Knowledge 
Hall, watching an outfit from Bucks Coun- 
ty do a scan-in on the north wall ivy. The 
ivy wasn't quite dead yet; I could hear 
its faint brown moaning as the software 
scanned and replicated each dying 
tendril, replacing it with a vivid green 
image. Then the old stuff was pulled 
down with a long wall rake and 
bagged. I was getting a headache. 

"1 just came from the grove," Carl 
demanded. "How long have the oaks 
been bare like that? Why didn't you 
call me?" 

"1 figured they were automatic," 
said the grounds dean. "Besides, no- 
body's blaming you." 

The image-ivy came complete with 
butterflies, hovering tirelessly. 

"It's not a question of blame," said 
Carl. Exasperated with the grounds 
dean, he put the pickup into gear. 
"Jump in, Gail," he said. "Let's head 
back to the grove. I think we've got a 
Code Eight -.here. It's time for the 

The Thumper is a gasoline-powered 
induction coil the size of the "alligator" 
we used to warm the greenhouse 
back when the winters were cold. 
While Carl cranked it up, 1 pulled the 
two cables attached to it out of the 
truck bed and started dragging them to- 
ward the trees; they grew heavier as 
they grew longer. 

"We haven't got all day!" Carl 
| yelled. I clipped the red cable to a low 

branch on the farthest tree, and 

clipped the black one to a steel rod driv- 
en into the ground-colloid. Then I got 
back in the truck. 

The grounds dean pulled up on his 
three-wheeler just as Carl hit the 
switch. A few students hurrying to 
class stopped and looked around, be- 
wildered, as the current ripped 
through the pavement under them. 
Carl hit it twice more. I could see the 
topmost twigs of the trees flutter, but 
there was no feeling there, and hardly 
any far below where the taproots were 
curled in on themselves in dark and si- 
lent misery. 

"That oughta wake 'em upl" the 
grounds dean called out cheerily. 

Carl ignored him. He was in the 
grove, kneeling at the base of one of 
the oaks, and he motioned for me to 
come over. "Volunteer," he whispered, 
brushing four tiny blades of fescue 
with his fingertips. "I haven't seen that 
in years." I felt it with my fingertips, 
an incredibly delicate green filigree, 
eagerly and shamelessly alive. It was 
feeding on the nutrients that should 
have gone to the tree roots, which had 
somehow lost their will to live. 

"I'm sorry I yelled at you, Gail," Carl 
said, brushing his knees off as we 
stood up; awkwardly, he leaned over 
and brushed mine off, too. "I don't 
know what's getting into me." And it 
was true: it was the first time he had 
yelled at me since I had sought refuge 
in his nursery sixty-six months before. 
Carl told the grounds dean that we 
would check on the Oak Grove tomor- 
row, and we left. But we both knew the 
electroshock was too little, too late. On 
the way back to the nursery, Carl 
didn't talk about his beloved oaks at all. 
Instead, he talked about the volunteer. 
"Remember when grass just grew, 
Gail?" he said. "It was everywhere. You 
didn't have to feed it, or force it, or 
plant it, or anything. Kids made money 
cutting it, Hell, you couldn't stop it! It 
grew on the roadsides, grew in the me- 
dians, grew up through the cracks in 
the sidewalk. Trees, too. Trees grew 
wild. Leave a field alone and it turned 
into a forest in a few years. Life was in 
the air, like wild yeast; the whole damn 
world was like sourdough bread. Re- 
member, Gail? Those were the good 
old days." 

I nodded and looked away, but not 
before tears of self-pity sprang unbid- 
den to my eyes. How could I forget the 
good old days? 

By noon on Wednesday the Barbers 
hadn't called, so we swung by their 
place on the way to lunch. The ominous 
brown edge was still there, but the 







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grass toward the center of the lawn was 
a brighter green, almost feverish-look- 
ing in spots. "At least it's stfll alive," 
Carl said, but a little uncertainly. I 
shrugged. I didn't feel good. 

"That girl doesn't look right to me," 
said Lord Byron at lunch. I had to find 
a chair because I couldn't balance on 
a counter stool. 
■ "She'll be all right," said Carl. Next 
to empathy, optimism is his best quali- 
ty. "And I'll have the usual." 

Carl spent the afternoon doing the 
books while I dozed on a cot at the of- 
fice end of the greenhouse. "What I 
lose in plants I make up in cybers," he 
said. "I'm the only nurseryman in the 
state who still services organics— but 
you know that. Funny how it all balanc- 
es out, Gail. First I make money poison- 
ing or cutting the grass; then I make 
more trying to keep it alive. When that 
goes, there's a fortune in greenlawn. 
Paint it every spring. Same with trees. 
First it was sales. Then it was mainte- 
nance, life supports. Now it's electrics. 
Hell, I don't know what I'm complaining 
about, Gail. I'm making more money 
than ever, yet somehow I feel like I'm 
going out of business. ..." 
He talked on and on all afternoon, 

while I tossed and turned, trying to 

Thursday morning we approached the 
university with a mounting sense of 
dread. I had known it all along; Carl 
knew it as soon as he pulled up beside 
the trees and shut off the engine. I 
didn't even have lo get out of the truck 
to feel the silence through the soles 
of my feet. There was no life in fhe Oak 
Grove. Carl's pride and joy was dead 

The volunteer fescue was gone, too. 
We got out to look, but it had dried up 
overnight and only brown blades were 
left, withering in the network shadows 
of the bare branches. Maybe the 
Thumper had killed it; or maybe it had 
just run out of life, like everything else 
seemed to be doing these days. 

"Nobody's blaming you," said the 
grounds dean. He had come up behind 
us unnoticed and put his hand on 
Carl's shoulder. "To tell the truth, Carl, 
we've been having funding problems. 
I'm not sure how long we could have 
afforded to keep the ground feed go- 
ing anyway. What would you think of 
going to videoleaf? Or we could even 
try silicyberbud branch implants, at 
least for a season or two. But don't 

worry, we're not going to take out 
these stately oaks until we absolutely 
have to. They're like old friends to the 
students, Carl. Do you know what they 
call the grove?" The Dean looked at 
me and winked; I guess because he 
thought I was young. "The students 
call it the Kissing Grove!" 

"It's not a question of blame," Carl 
said. I'd never seen him so depressed. 
I wasn't feeling so hot myself. 

"You should send this girl home, Carl," 
Lord Byron said when we stopped for 
lunch. "How long has she worked for 
you? Gay, honey, have you ever taken 
a sick day?" 

"She lives in the greenhouse," Carl 
said. "She doesn't exactly work for me. 
And leave her cap alone; nobody 
wants to look at a bald head." 

We spent the afternoon pulling IV fit- 
tings. The Delaware Golf Club is one of 
the fanciest clubs in the Garden State, 
and the fairways as well as the greens 
had been organic not so many years 
ago. This year we had finally lost (he bat- 
tle on the greens. Thursday was the 
deadline for us to get our hardware out 
so they could lay the permaturf. 
Carl drove the pickup straight up the 




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fairways, ignoring the angry shouts and 
curses of the golfers. The greens 
looked like the moon. Carl angrily un- 
screwed the nozzles and the fittings 
and threw them into the back of the pick- 
up, but left the pipes under the 
ground; they weren't worth the trouble 
it would take to get them out, at least 
for one person working alone. I was too 
dizzy to do much more than watch. 

"Every spring it gets worse," Carl mut- 
tered as he bounced across the last fair- 
way, through the ditch, and onto the 
county road. "Are you okay? Do you 
want me to pull over?" 

I tried to throw up but nothing would 

Friday I could barely get up. My once- 
dark skin looked pale reflected in the 
windows of the greenhouse. Carl was 
tapping on the glass with the truck key. 
It was already ten o'clock. 

"Code Nine, Gail!" he said. "I'm get- 
ting the truck." 

It was the Barbers. "I couldn't un- 
derstand what she was saying," Carl 
said as he pulled out into the traffic. He 
gave me the emergency flasher to 
plug in and set up on the dash. "But it 
must be bad. Hell, she was screaming." 

It was a bright, hard spring day; the. 

sky was cruel blue. Route One was 
jammed and Carl turned on the siren as 
well as the light. He drove on the shoul- 
der, with one wheel on the asphalt and 
the other on the green-painted rocks. 

By the time we got to Whisper- 
ing Woods I could see it was already 
too late. 

The neighbors were standing around 
the edges of the Barbers' front yard, 
watching the grass turn yellow, then yel- 
low-green, then yellow again, flickering 
like an alcohol fire in sickening waves. 
There was a faint crackling noise and 
a thin dying smell. 

"Sounds like cereal!" said one of 
the kids. 

Carl knelt down and pulled up a 
clump of grass and smelted the roots; 
he sniffed the air and looked over at me 
as if for the first time. "Code Ten," he 
said in a curiously flat voice. Hadn't we 
both known this day had to come? 

"Look out!" one of the neighbors shout- 
ed. "Get back!" 

The brown at the edges of the yard 
was starting to darken and spread in- 
ward. The crackling grew louder as it 
closed on the still-green center; it 
pulled back once, then again, each 
wave leaving the yellow-green grass a 

little paler. Then it all darkened at once 
like an eye closing, and there was si- 
lence. I felt my knees give out, so I 
leaned back against the truck. 

"It's not too late, is it, Carl?" asked 
Mr. Barber, coming to the end of the 
walk. His wife followed him, sniffling 
with fear, keeping her feet on the cen- 
ter of the walk, away from the dead 
ground. The thin dying smell had giv- 
en way to a foul, wet, loathsome, ugly 
stench as if some great grave had 


"Hey, mister, your boy is falling over," 
said one of the kids, tugging at Carl's 
sleeve. "His hat came off," 

"She's not a boy," said Carl. "And her 
name is Gaea." I'd never heard him get 
it right before. 

"What's that smell?" asked another 
neighbor. She was sniffing not the lawn 
but the wind, the long one, the one that 
blows all the way around the world. 

"Excuse me," Carl said to the Bar- 
bers. He ran over and tried to pick me 
up but I was too far gone. 

"It is too late, isn't it Carl?" said 
Mr. Barber, and Carl, nodding, began 
to cry, and so would I if I could have 
anymore. DO 


The average brain 

weighs about three 
pounds. Lord Byron 
had one of the 
heaviest — 5 pounds, 
2.25 ounces. 


The brain makes up 2 
to 3 percent of body 
weight but uses 20 
percent of all oxygen. 


PARTS: The limbic 
system, evolutionary 
older than the cere- 
bral cortex, is essen- 
tial for behavioral and 
emotional expression. 
The hippocampus, an 
area of the limbic 
system, is essential for 
learning and memory 

A person in a 
persistent vegetative 
state has reflex func- 
tions but is incapable 
of any thought, intel- 
lect, memory, speech, 
or awareness of self or 
environment. Cogni- 
tive death: Some 
bioethicists, philoso- 
phers, and physicians 
think the definition of 
death should be 
expanded to include 
persistent vegetative 




END: Disruption of 
blood flow to the brain 
for eight to ten 
seconds leads to 
dysfunction; three to 
five minutes leads to 
permanent brain dam- 
age; after five min- 
utes, death. 



The brain uses 15 

percent of all cardiac 

output, three-quarters 

of a quart to 1 quart of 

blood a minute, 



brain is the enlarged 
end of the spine. 


Brain death: when no 
part of the brain 
functions. Persistent 
vegetative state: Part 
of the brain is 
destroyed. The brain 
stem, the most primi- 
tive region, usually 
remains mostly intact. 

promises to alter, 

perhaps forever, the 
worlds of entertain- 
ment, education, sci- 
ence, and industry. 

fending virus later 
than those in poorer 
families. That delayed 
exposure may trig- 
ger abnormal cell 

47 50 


consensus is that it is 
the fastest computer 
in the world. The 
fastest computer 20 

years ago was much, 
much slower than the 
fastest computer to- 
day, but both were 
supercomputers. To- 
day, a supercom- 
puter performs aroi 
100 million floating- 
point operations per 


FIGURES: At any 
time in the U.S., 12.6 
percent of the popula- 
tion suffer from a 
mental disorder. Over 
25 percent of the 
population suffer a 
mental disorder In 
their lifetime. 



computer experts 
have a tough time 
defining a supercom- 
puter. The general 


sists of manmade 

pieces of computer 
code that behave 
much like living 
things: They repro- 
duce, often producing 
varied offspring; they 
contract debilitating 
illnesses; they die. 



A computer hardware/ 
software technology 
that persuades users 
of the "reality" of 
artificial environments. 
Using optical devices, 
very fast processors, 
and sensors and — 
feedback devices at- 
tached- to human 
users, virtual reality 
allows practitioners to 
■ move through simula- 
tions of real environ- 
ments such as rooms 
and houses, to 
achieve the illusion of 
flight, to visit historical 
antiquities or distant 
worlds— all artificially 
created by computer. 
Still in its infancy, VR 


is a piece of computer 
code that contains 
instructions to do at 
least two things: Place 
a copy of itself in any 
other computer sys- 
tem it contacts (for 
example, over a com- 
puter network) and 
perform some task, 
such as placing a 
particular message on 
the screen. Specially 
designed programs, 
often called vaccines, 
can find and neutral- 
ize viruses. 

our books, our 


RICH: A recent study 
from the British Office 
of Population Census- 
es and Surveys shows 
that children from 
wealthier families are 
more likely to develop 
leukemia. The reason, 
researchers specu- 
late, is that children in 
richer families may 
to an of- 

It's long been thought 
that the body of the 
great composer 
Wolfgang Amadeus 
Mozart was lost in a 
large communal 
grave. His skull, how- 
ever, was said to 
reside in Salzberg's 
Mozarteum. Is it true? 
Apparently yes, ac- 
cording to a group of 
French researchers 
who say they have 
positively identified the 
skull. The anthroplo- 
gists, from the Univer- 
sity of Provence, 
reconstructed the 
head in clay and 
found it matched 
historical as well as 
contemporary portraits 
of the composer. 

fiND FINUIY . . . 



ajbeyond our control 
(NOT!), b) where we'll 
spend the rest of our 
lives, c) what we make 
of it. 


known that drugs 
taken by pregnant 
women can damage 
the fetus. Recent 
research from the 
Temple University 
School of Medicine- 
suggests that co- 
caine can hitch a 
ride on sperm, enter. 
the egg, and dam- 
age the developing 
embryo. A. Yazigi, 

head of the research, 
suspects that pater- 
nal cocaine abuse 
causes defects such 
as learning disabili- 
ties and memory